For the second straight night, 40 minutes was not enough. App State men’s basketball advanced to the Sun Belt Tournament Finals with a 64-61 overtime victory over Coastal Carolina on Sunday night.
The Mountaineers (16-11) will now face Sun Belt East Division champion Georgia State for a chance to punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament on Monday evening at 7 p.m. EST on ESPN2. App State won two of the three meetings with the Panthers this season.
The Black and Gold will make its first appearance in the Sun Belt Tournament Championship since joining the league in the 2014-15 season. It also marks the first conference championship game appearance for the program since the 2010 Southern Conference Tournament.
Trailing 35-30 in the second half, App State went on a 12-0 run, using a trio of 3-pointers from Michael Almonacy, to open a seven-point lead at 42-35 with 11:17 to play. Coastal Carolina (16-7) scored the next five points to tie the game at 42-42 and jumped in front 48-44 with just over three minutes left. App State countered with the next seven points to open a 51-48 edge with 17 seconds left. On the Chanticleers next possession, DeVante’ Jones drew a foul and knocked down all three free throws to tie the score at 51-51. A three at the buzzer by App State was no good sending the game to overtime.
In overtime, Adrian Delph drained a trey to give the Mountaineers a 54-51 lead. Coastal Carolina answered with four straight points, but Delph hit another 3-pointer to put App State up 57-55 with 2:49 to play. Coastal Carolina tied the game at 57-57, before a layup from RJ Duhart gave App State a 59-57 advantage.
The Black and Gold got a defensive stop and Delph hit a free throw with 32 seconds left to make the score 60-57. The Chanticleers pulled to within a point with 18 seconds left, but Delph converted another free throw to push the App State lead to 61-59. On Coastal Carolina’s next possession, Justin Forrest knocked the ball away on a drive and was fouled, making both free throws to push the App State advantage to 63-59 with nine seconds to go.
The Chanticleers pulled within two points again at 63-61, but Forrest hit another free throw with four seconds left to give App State a 64-61 edge. The Chanticleers pushed the ball up the court, but Donovan Gregory forced a steal to secure the win.
Leading 7-5 early, Coastal Carolina used a 7-0 run to push its lead to 14-5. Following a layup from Gregory, the Chanticleers scored four straight points to build a 18-7 edge. From there, the Mountaineers stormed back with a 13-0 run, getting six points from Delph, to take a 20-18 lead with 4:21 left in the opening half. Coastal Carolina then closed the half on an 11-0 spurt to take a 29-20 lead into the break.
Gregory posted career highs of 14 rebounds, six assists and eight steals. His eight steals tie a Sun Belt Tournament record. In addition, Gregory is the first player in Division I in the last decade to record at least 14 rebounds, eight steals and six assists in a game.
Delph finished with 19 points and five rebounds. Almonacy also finished with 19 points, draining six 3-pointers.
Forrest finished with 13 points, five rebounds and a pair of steals. He also moved into third place in program history in the scoring list, passing Don King. Duhart chipped in with nine points and five rebounds.
The App State defense was tough all night, limiting the top offensive team in the Sun Belt to just 61 points and 37.1 percent (23-of-62) shooting. In addition, the Mountaineers forced the Chanticleers into 22 turnovers and recorded a season best 16 steals.
Jones posted a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Chanticleers. Ebrima Dibba also had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.