March sadness

Published 11:38 pm Tuesday, March 15, 2011

GREENVILLE – The Pirates historic run came to a heartbreaking end as they fell 71-66 to Jacksonville University in overtime in the first round of the Postseason Tournament on Tuesday.

Playing without star senior point guard Brock Young, who tore his ACL in his left knee during the Conference USA tournament, East Carolina struggled against  an athletic Dolphins team that applied heavy pressure throughout the game and caused 19 turnovers which led to 22 points.

East Carolina senior Jontae Sherrod capped off his Pirates’ career with a game-high 26-point performance that included a clutch three pointer near the end of regulation.

Junior Darrius Morrow struggled to find his rhythm offensively but ended the game with his fourth straight double-double as he tallied 16 points and 15 rebounds.

Jacksonville had four players score over 10 points as Travis Cohn led the way with 18 and was followed by Ayron Hardy who netted 12 while Keith McDougald and Tevin Galvin each scored 11.

The loss caps off a pleasantly surprising season turned in by first-year coach Jeff Lebo who guided East Carolina (18-16) to its first winning season in 14 years.

Lebo, whose 18 wins are the second most by a first-year coach at ECU (Dave Patton’s 19 in 1974-75 is No. 1), restored pride in the Pirates’ program by coaching them to their first appearance in a postseason tournament since the school’ trip to the Big Dance in 1992-93 season.

“For me personally, I had a really enjoyable year coaching these guys,” Lebo said. “I told them at the end, especially the seniors, how proud I was of them and thanked them for their hard work … If we would have won six and gave that kind of effort it still would have been a gratifying year … I think people know that we are here now and we want to continue to let them know that we are here.”

The game might have been a little different if one person who was there in street clothes was wearing his customary No. 10 jersey. After the game, Lebo said not having Young, ECU all-time assist king, made it extremely tough to handle Jacksonville’s pressure.

“Our big concern coming in was our ability to handle the basketball,” Lebo said. “He would have been able to match their quickness. His craftiness with the ball would have been able to get the ball up the court and get us into our (offense). It exposed us a bit out there, not having him in this game.”

Also hurting the Pirates was the fact that senior Jamar Abrams (7 points) struggles to shoot the ball and that nobody else besides Sherrod and Morrow became a factor on offense.

Sherrod said he enjoyed his four years at ECU that it wasn’t only his basketball skills that developed during his time as a Pirate.

“I played all four of my years here. I came in feeling like I was ready to play but I wasn’t mature enough at the time,” Sherrod said. “I had to do a lot of growing up. I think these last two years here I feel like I have grown up.”