Over the years, a Concord-Bluefield State men's basketball game has often drawn standing-room-only crowds to the gym now known as the Carter Center. On Saturday evening, the arena was half full, but those present saw an even, hard-fought contest decided in the final five seconds.

Javaughn Acree-Manuel nailed a long jumper from the top of the key with 4.5 seconds on the clock to break a tie and give the Concord Mountain Lions a 67-65 decision over the visiting Big Blues.

Steve Cox, who’s been present for the county rivalry as Concord head coach or assistant coach since 1978, said, “They always play a good game against us. They play hard. We were kind of lethargic, I thought, for great portions of the game. But we came back and played hard down the stretch — and we had to.”

The game was tied eight times, the last one at 65-65 when Bluefield State’s Bryan Tingle tipped in a rebound from the paint with 46 seconds left.

Concord (8-7, 5-6 West Virginia Conference) used a timeout to set up a three-point try by Cory Willard, but it was off the mark. Gentry Shrewsbury grabbed the offensive rebound and the ball wound up in Acree-Manuel’s hands with the shot clock ticking down.

The league’s leading scorer said, “It was a screen-and-roll, really. I was supposed to give it to one of my teammates (if he was) open, but one of their players backed off, so I thought I had a good shot. And I hit it.”

Bluefield State (1-15, 1-11) lost its ninth straight game, but once again played its opponent tough in a hostile gym. The last four losses, all on the road, have been decided by a total of 10 points.

Tingle paced Bluefield State with 27 points, going 13-for-17 from the field. He also had team highs with 10 rebounds, two blocks and three second-half steals. Hickman Simmons was close behind with 21 points, nine rebounds and five assists.

The Big Blues ruled the paint for the most part, outscoring Concord 42 to 24 inside and winning the rebounding statistic by a margin of 39 to 29.

The visitors limited their hosts to 6-for-25 from three-point range, with five of the six made treys coming from Acree-Manuel. Concord wound up shooting 40 percent from the floor overall and made 17 of 22 foul shots.

Acree-Manuel said, “We turned the ball over a little bit too much, and weren’t making shots. It should have been a better game than what it was.”

Cox said, “Our three-point shooting was not good. … Our rebounding, again, continues to be a problem. We keep searching. But we got enough plays out of Rick (Alderman) and Gentry (Shrewsbury) to help us, and we pulled it out.”

He said that Rafee Smith and Shrewsbury exhibited “sound floor play” and each drew charges at key moments. “Those are big plays that don’t show up in the stats, but that stops a scoring opportunity for them and gets the ball back for us,” Cox said.

Acree-Manuel had 19 points, two assists and two steals for Concord, and Alderman added 14 points and seven rebounds. Off the bench, Shrewsbury had nine points and went 7-for-8 at the foul line, all in the game’s final 10 minutes.

Cox said about Shrewsbury’s foul shots, “They were all big, coming down the stretch.”

All nine Big Blues who played provided at least one assist, and six came up with steals. Bluefield State picked up 27 defensive rebounds while Concord had only eight offensive boards. But the home team picked up 20 points off BSC’s 15 turnovers.

The Mountain Lions scored the first six points of the game but the Big Blues answered immediately with an 8-1 run and led by 32-26 with 4:10 left in the first half.

Concord trimmed it to a 34-32 deficit at the break and opened up the second half with seven straight points to take a 39-34 lead. The lead was never greater than five points for either squad after halftime.

Cox said, “Gentry Shrewsbury made a couple of big plays to give us extra possessions. … We were able to run our last shot, there, for Javaughn without having to call timeout.”

“It’s just great to win a game. Since we’d come back, we lost three out of four.”

He noted that in the first week of the season, the Mountain Lions lost four in a row against very good teams, then beat Bluefield State in the Currence Classic at BSC to start a six-game winning streak.

Cox said, “That kind of got us going, and we were able to run a little streak. I don’t know if this one will do the same thing, but it’d be nice if it did.”

That quest begins with a trip to the Northern Panhandle later this week. Concord plays at Wheeling Jesuit (9-5) on Thursday and visits league-leading West Liberty (15-0), the top team in NCAA Division II basketball, on Saturday afternoon.

“The win gives us a boost of confidence, because we had lost two straight,” Acree-Manuel said. “Now, hopefully, we can win the rest of the week.”

Bluefield State hosts Charleston (6-9) in a doubleheader on Monday evening at the Ned Shott Gym, and finishes the week on the road playing at West Liberty on Thursday and at Fairmont State (11-3) this Saturday afternoon.

The Big Blues left the Carter Center soon after the game’s conclusion and therefore were not available for comment.

— Contact Tom Bone

at tbone@bdtonline.com

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