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College of Charleston cleans out Southern, earns bid
Posted: Sunday February 28, 1999 05:01 PM
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) -- College of Charleston fans came with brooms in hand. The red-hot Cougars made sure they used them.
Danny Johnson scored 21 points, including a clutch 3-pointer down the stretch, as the 17th-ranked Cougars rallied to beat Appalachian State 77-67 in the championship game of the Southern Conference tournament Sunday.
Following the win, fans handed brooms to players, who proceeded to sweep the Greensboro Coliseum floor just like they swept through the league, going 16-0 in the regular season and 3-0 in the tournament.
"It was a great feeling to see those brooms," said Johnson, who was 9-for-14 from the field.
As a symbol of unity and thanks to his upperclassmen, coach John Kresse brought eight seniors and sophomore starter Jody Lumpkin to the stage for one of the largest postgame interview sessions in years.
"I think I'm the only one under 60 up here," joked Lumpkin, who helped Charleston to a 36-19 rebounding advantage. "They are all like big brothers to me, but hopefully I'll get to play with them for a lot more games."
Appalachian State coach Buzz Peterson said he was aware the Cougar fans were armed.
"We saw them at the Phar-Mor shopping for them. For us, it was a motivating factor," said Peterson, who got 18 points from tourney MVP Marshall Phillips.
But Peterson's club ended up folding down the stretch.
"We weathered some storms, we got through this with some big-time foul problems," said Kresse. "We stepped up down the stretch with some tremendous defense and we made our foul shots."
The victory was the 25th in a row for the Cougars (28-2) and sends them to the NCAA Tournament with the conference's automatic bid.
Charleston, who won the Trans America Conference title each of the last two seasons before switching leagues, became the first Southern Conference team since Furman in 1975 to go undefeated in the regular season and also win the tournament.
Appalachian State (21-8), coming off a double-overtime semifinal victory over Chattanooga, saw its 10-game winning streak snapped and went to 0-5 in title games since winning its only Southern Conference crown in 1979.
Unlike Charleston's previous two tourney blowouts of 31 and 24 points, respectively, this one went down to the wire. And it was accomplished mostly without Southern Conference Player of the Year Sedric Webber, who battled foul trouble and finished with just six points.
Charleston trailed by as many as 11 in the first half and 37-30 at intermission, but went on a 13-4 run to take its first lead of the game with 16:05 left. But 21 seconds later, Webber, who had just entered the game, picked up his fourth foul and the Mountaineers countered to go up 50-43. A charging call against Johnson and a 3-pointer by Matt McMahon -- his fourth of the game -- brought a 20-second timeout call from Kresse and a little fire.
Kresse walked onto the court and went toe-to-toe with official Steve Gordon, who had called the foul on Johnson from the other side of the court. The normally mild-mannered Kresse pointed in Gordon's face and the two exchanged heated words.
But Kresse's outburst seemed to fire his club up. The Cougars went on a 13-2 run over the next four minutes as both teams continued to set a torrid pace.
"I thought it was kind of a left-field call, but he said he saw it and I asked Danny and he admitted that he pushed off," said Kresse. "I was just staying in the game."
Johnson's 3-pointer with 5:32 left gave the Cougars the lead for good at 61-58, and Charleston was 8-for-10 from the foul line over the final minute to nail down the win.
The Cougars started their first two Southern Conference tourney games against Furman and Western Carolina with 13-0 and 12-0 runs, but never led in the opening 20 minutes against the Mountaineers, who sank nine of their first 14 shots to lead by as many as 11."Appalachian State was supposed to be the tired, weary ballclub, but they came out with tremendous zip, aggression and confidence," said Kresse. "They were dictating the tempo of the game on offense and defense."
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