Seahawks punch NCAA ticket with fifth CAA Championship; Watch highlights is your source for free news and information in the Wilmington area.

After a 10-year hiatus, the UNCW men’s basketball team will be playing in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament following a stirring 80-73 come-from-behind overtime victory over top-seeded Hofstra on Monday night in the 2016 Colonial Athletic Association Men’s Basketball championship game at Royal Farms Arena.

The Seahawks tied the school record for victories and stand 25-7 on the season. The Pride had its eight-game winning streak snapped and stands 24-9.

Senior guard Craig Ponder anchored four players in double figures with 20 points for the Seahawks, who won their fifth CAA championship. Junior guard Chris Flemmings contributed 19 points and was named Most Valuable Player after averaging 17.7 points over the three games.

UNCW will make its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2006. Photo courtesy- UNCW sports
UNCW will make its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2006. Photo courtesy- UNCW sports

Junior guard Denzel Ingram added 17 points and junior center C.J. Gettys scored 10. Ponder and Ingram joined Flemmings on the All-Tournament Team.

“I told everybody coming into the tournament that we were built for a tournament run,” said Kevin Keatts, two-time CAA Coach of the Year. “We bent a little bit, but didn’t break. Every time they made a run and built a lead, it could have been easy for our guys to fold, but they didn’t. These guys just stuck in there and I’m so proud of all of them.”

The Seahawks and Pride, meeting for the fifth time in the CAA Tournament, battled nip-and-tuck for much of the night before Hofstra built a 12-point lead early in the second half and watched as the Seahawks battled back to tie the score and take home the hardware in overtime.

UNCW opened the second half with a bucket inside by Gettys, but the Pride reeled off seven straight points to get the lead back to 48-36 with just over 17 minutes remaining.

Hofstra’s lead bumped up to 52-40 on a monster dunk by Gustys at 15:21, but the Seahawks scored six in a row to climb within 52-46 with 13:45 left in the contest.

Senior Craig Ponder takes the first snip during the post game ceremony.
Senior Craig Ponder takes the first snip during the post game ceremony.

The Seahawks were still behind, 62-58, after a pair of free throws by Green, but reeled off seven straight points. After a Ponder trifecta at the six-minute mark, the Seahawks took their first lead since 10:57 of the first half when freshman guard C.J. Bryce converted both ends of a bonus situation. Flemmings then drove coast to coast for a layup to give UNCW a 65-62 edge with 4:22 remaining in the game.

With the score tied at 68-all in regulation, Ponder was called for an offensive foul with 5.2 seconds on the clock, but Green’s long attempt at the buzzer bounced high off the glass, sending the game into overtime.

UNCW then dominated the overtime period, making all four of its field goal attempts, and outscored the Pride, 12-5, in the extra period. Keatts is now 6-0 in overtime since arriving in Wilmington two years ago.

Hofstra shot 57.7 in the first half, but just 25 percent in the second period. The Seahawks committed just seven turnovers and Ingram was the only Seahawk to play all 45 minutes.

The Seahawks are now 36-26 in CAA Tournament play. UNCW’s last championship in 2006 also came at the expense of the Pride in Richmond, Va. UNCW will learn its seed for the NCAA Tournament on selection Sunday.

Miss the game? Click here for Port City Daily sports reporter Joe Catenacci’s live courtside report from last night.