Portsmouth, Va., April 4 -- It’s often said that no lead is safe in the NBA, and that any team trailing by a wide margin in the first half inevitably will make a run in the second half. On Thursday night’s second night of the 50th annual Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, that doctrine was reinforced, even though the participants were merely NBA hopefuls, not NBA players, and the setting was Churchland High School and not the NBA hardwood.
MD Design, which was almost blown off the court in the opening minutes, trailing by scores of 26-4 and 34-11, staged a tremendous rally to score an improbable 83-81 win over Norfolk Sports Club in the finale of three games played Thursday in Portsmouth.
Final Four participant Aaron McGhee of Oklahoma (game-highs of 24 points and 11 rebounds) and home state favorites Chris Williams of Virginia (17 points, seven rebounds) and Tommy Adams of Hampton (14 points) combined to make seven of eight free throws in the final 1:37 to claim the victory. McGhee and Williams drove aggressively to the basket again and again in the second half, and were rewarded with a combined 23 free throw attempts, of which they made 20.
The comeback ruined a sterling effort by NCAA championship team member Byron Mouton of Maryland. The senior swingman scored 10 points in each half and showed a variety of offensive moves and shots in leading his team with 20 points. Matt Barnes of UCLA was the other standout for Norfolk Sports Club, as he tallied 19 points, showing impressive shooting range all evening.
MD Design started the long climb back in the last two minutes of the first half. With Norfolk leading 41-22, MD Design scored the final seven points of the first half, five by Ohio State’s Boban Savovic, to trim the lead to 41-29 at halftime. MD Design then started the second half with a 9-2 run punctuated by a three-point shot by Clarence Gilbert of Missouri to draw within 43-38. Norfolk Sports Club stubbornly clung to their narrow lead, but MD Design finally tied the game when Adams hit a three-point shot to knot it at 62 apiece with 8:53 remaining. With that shot, MD Design had outscored Norfolk 51-28 over a 20-minute stretch that bridged both halves.
Williams put MC Design ahead for good by hitting two free throws with 1:37 remaining to give his team a 78-76 edge. After the teams traded baskets and free throws in a tension-packed final minute, Trevor Huffman of Kent State hit the first of two free throws with five seconds remaining to help Norfolk cut the deficit to 83-81. He missed the second free throw on purpose, and the plan partly worked as MD Design swatted the ball out of bounds with three seconds remaining. Huffman then inbounded to Mouton, who missed a desperation three-point attempt under heavy defensive pressure as the horn sounded.
BEACH BARTON FORD 81, RIDDLE ACURA 72: Center Robert Archibald of Illinois set an early tone with his inside scoring and aggressive rebounding in leading Beach Barton Ford to victory. Archibald scored six quick points as Beach Barton Ford vaulted out to a 14-4 lead. From there, Miami’s versatile John Salmons took over, playing much the same way he did for the Hurricanes this season, doing a little bit of everything. He finished with a team-high 17 points on 8-for-13 shooting and added six rebounds and four assists.
Antwan Scott of Wake Forest, who suffered through an 0-for-7 shooting start in the game, rebounded from a scoreless first half to contribute 15 points in the win. Scott made six of his eight shots in the second half, including several rim-rattling dunks. Another Atlantic Coast Conference standout, Monte Cummings of Florida State, tallied 16 points to join his teammates in double figures.
Riddle Acura enjoyed several excellent performances despite the loss. Luke Recker of Iowa knocked down 5-of-11 three-point attempts to score a team-high 19 points, while Rolan Roberts of Southern Illinois made 8-of-12 shots for 16 points. Randy Holcomb of San Diego State, the surprise NCAA Tournament entry from the Mountain West Conference, notched a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
It was Holcomb who delivered the evening’s most memorable play, one that sent a murmur of approval through the usually impassive legion of NBA general managers and scouts seated together at one end of the gym. Recker missed a jump shot that spun off the rim to the left. Holcomb started his leap as the ball came off the rim, gathered it with left hand after the ball had fallen perhaps a foot and a half below the rim, and in a demonstration of sheer power and athleticism, forcefully windmilled the ball back through the rim in the blink of an eye. Holcomb, a First Team All-Mountain West Conference forward, increased his profile after he received effusive praise from Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski after a December meeting between the two teams.
Consolation Bracket – Sales Systems 71, Freedom Automotive 55: Powerful L.F. Licholitov of Virginia Commonwealth pounded his way to 16 points and 14 rebounds to help Sales Systems earn the decision on points over Freedom Automotive. The 6-11, 250-pound Russian manhandled his opponents on both backboards, claiming seven rebounds on each end of the court.
Rebounds were plentiful as both teams shot less than 35 percent from the field for the game. Villanova’s Brooks Sales of Sales Systems just missed a second straight double-double with 12 rebounds and nine points. Dwayne Archbold of Siena paced Freedom Automotive with 15 points, while Chad Prewitt of Arizona State and Altron Jackson of South Florida grabbed nine rebounds apiece for Freedom.
3:45 p.m. Riddle Acura vs. Norfolk Sports Club
7 p.m. Naval Shipyard vs. Portsmouth Sports Club
9 p.m. Beach Barton Ford vs. MD Design
NOTES: Many college coaches make the trek to the PIT to show support for their senior players participating in the tournament and to catch up with old friends in the pro basketball world. Thursday night, all eyes were on Kelvin Sampson of Oklahoma and Roy Williams of Kansas, who both guided their teams to the NCAA Final Four this season.