DURHAM, N.C. — Delaware State has suffered its share of tough men’s basketball losses over the years.
But this one might have been as difficult to swallow as any in recent memory.
With a chance to knock off first-place North Carolina Central — as well as snap the Eagles’ 30-game home winning streak — the Hornets instead suffered a heart-breaking 55-54 loss in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference showdown on Monday night.
Senior Amere May shot three free throws with DSU trailing by just two points and only 0.4 seconds remaining. But May missed the last two foul shots to allow North Carolina Cenral to escape with the hard-earned victory.
After May’s third free-throw attempt bounced hard off the back of the rim, the senior fell to the court and covered his face with his jersey as the Eagles’ fans stormed the court around him.
The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the Hornets (4-2 MEAC, 10-10 overall).
“We had our chances, but couldn’t pull it out in the end,” said May. “I felt we were going to win after I was fouled because I’m usually good at the line.”
Delaware State coach Keith Walker felt his team had its chances to win the hard fought contest.
“This was an exciting game between two good MEAC teams,” Walker said. “We had our opportunities but came up short at the end. The guys are a little down right now, but I’m confident we’ll bounce back.”
Dante Holmes’ foul shot with 4.4 seconds remaining, which gave Central (8-0 MEAC, 16-5 overall) its 55-53 lead, ended up being the game winner. But Holmes missed his second free throw and DelState got the ball to May.
May got off a long-range jumper at the buzzer that rolled off the rim and the Eagles’ students charged onto the floor, thinking the game was over.
The officials, however, called Central’s Nimrod Hilliard for a foul after he clipped May’s left leg on the shot. After the referees checked the replay to see how much time to put on the clock, May went to the line.
He was 7-for-7 from the foul line in the contest before missing the crucial final two.
DelState led by as many as eight points midway through the second half before Central rallied. The Hornets went up 53-51 when Tyshawn Bell sank a three-pointer with 1:47 left.
The basket put the Caesar Rodney High grad over 1,000 points for his career.
But the Eagles took the lead for good at 54-53 when Anthony McDonald buried a three-pointer from the corner with 25.5 seconds the clock.
May missed a foul-line jumper on DSU’s ensuing possession and the rebound went off the Hornets, out of bounds with 5.7 seconds left.
Ironically, it was May who drilled a three-pointer from the top of the key with two seconds left in the first half to give DelState a 29-27 halftime advantage.
Bell finished with a team-high 13 points while May added 12 in the contest. Kendall Gray added eight points and 11 rebounds.
McDonald netted a game-high 23 points for Central, going 4-of-16 from three-point range. Central’s 31-game home winning streak is the third longest current streak among Division I teams in the country.