ASHEVILLE, N.C. – A late surge by fifth-seeded Western Carolina was too much for fourth-seeded Elon to overcome in the Southern Conference Tournament quarterfinals on Saturday, March 8, as the Phoenix dropped a 66-64 heartbreaker in the final moments.
Elon had a chance to tie or win the game with 6.6 seconds left following a Western turnover with the Phoenix in a must-foul situation on its end of the court, but Jack Isenbarger’s deep three-point attempt missed as time expired.
“Congratulations to Western Carolina on advancing,” said Elon head coach Matt Matheny. “We’re disappointed. Our players knew coming into this it was going to be a 40-minute war and it turned into a 40-minute war. I thought we prepared well and played for the better part of the first half very well. We had a lull in the second half, particularly offensively and they got some big buckets with some loose ball kick outs.”
The Phoenix led by as many as 12 points in the second period, but WCU surged with a 17-7 run over a four-minute stretch to make it a two-point game with 8:14 to play on a Rhett Harrelson triple.
Tawaski King put the Catamounts over the hump with 4:23 left after posting up for a layup that put Elon behind by one, 60-59, giving WCU its first lead since it led 4-2 with 18:47 left in the first period.
Ryley Beaumont cut Western’s lead to two with 9.4 seconds left after driving to the basket for his team-best 16th point of the day that made it a 66-64 game.
After the Catamounts turned the ball over on the inbound with the Phoenix in a must-foul situation with 6.6 seconds remaining, Isenbarger’s deep three sailed just to the right, allowing WCU to pull the upset. Isenbarger was the only other Elon player in double figures, finishing with 10 points.
Elon shot 43 percent from the field, going 5-of-19 from deep. The Catamounts finished with a 39-34 edge on the glass, grabbing 18 offensive rebounds.
Elon carried a 34-25 into the locker room at intermission after shooting 50 percent (12-of-24) from the field, including 4-of-9 from downtown.
Kevin Blake pushed the Phoenix out to a 12-point lead, 45-33, with 14:23 to play after converting an old-fashioned three-point play following a strong drive to the basket for the bucket and made free throw.
But the Catamounts surged from that point forward, rallying for the win behind Harrelson and King.
This year marks the first time during Matheny’s tenure that Elon has not advanced to the SoCon Tournament semifinals.