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App Men’s Basketball Loses Heartbreaker 101-100 on Four-Point Play in Final Second

Frank Eaves led all scorers with 37 points in Monday's heartbreaking 101-100 loss to Georgia Southern. Courtesy: Dave Mayo / App State Athletics
Frank Eaves led all scorers with 37 points in Monday’s heartbreaking 101-100 loss to Georgia Southern. Courtesy: Dave Mayo / App State Athletics

By David Coulson

It was one of the most memorable games and incredible finishes in Holmes Convocation Center history Monday night.

But the contest ended with controversy as Mike Hughes lifted Georgia Southern to its 101-100 Sun Belt Conference victory over Appalachian State when he converted a 40-foot, three-point shot with 0.8 of a second remaining and added one free throw for the game-winning, four-point play.

In a foul-plagued encounter between the two former Southern Conference rivals, Hughes (19 points, nine rebounds, three assists, two blocked shots) fired up his desperation shot with the Eagles trailing 100-97. App State guard Chris Burgess contested the deep trey from just inside the center-court logo, but turned sideways, away from Hughes, while still standing on the ground.

Hughes fell to the ground as the remarkable shot swished through the netting to tie the game, but one of the three officials whistled a foul on Burgess when Hughes’ feet tangled with one of Burgess’ feet well after the shot was released.

“He didn’t give me room to land,” was the explanation that Hughes offered after the game. “He just ended up in my leg. I guess they’ve got to call it. I shoot crazy shots like that in practice all of the time.”

After a Mountaineer time out, Hughes stepped to the free-throw line and calmly drilled the free throw to give Georgia Southern (7-11 overall, 3-5 in conference) only its second lead of the entire second half.

“I knew (Hughes) was going to make the free throw,” GSU coach Mark Byington said. “That’s one of the craziest finishes I’ve ever seen.”

A long, Hail Mary pass, intended for ASU’s Jacob Lawson, sailed out of bounds underneath the Mountaineer basket and the Eagles were able to in-bound the ball to preserve the win.

The game brought back memories of App State’s 103-100, triple-overtime victory against UNC-Charlotte on Nov. 22, 2002, which ended with a deep Shawn Hall three-pointer and then a blocked three-point shot by ASU at the buzzer.

It was just short of the Holmes Convocation Center record of 204-combined points set by ASU and Milligan in a 113-91 Mountaineer win on Dec. 17, 2009.

Appalachian coach Jim Fox, chose his words carefully in his post-game news conference, but said he didn’t think Burgess had committed a foul and that his senior guard had executed the situation exactly as he was taught.

“I don’t think (Hughes) got fouled,” Fox said. “It was a heartbreaking loss. Our guys battled their brains out.”

The Mountaineers (5-14, 3-5) — coming off three wins in their past four games — struggled for large stretches of the first half against the hot-shooting Eagles (48.5% from the field in the first 20 minutes) and trailed by as many as 10 points before whittling the lead to four at 46-42 before the break.

But Appalachian turned its first possession of the second half into five points, with Tyrell Johnson scoring inside as he was fouled and Frank Eaves (37 points) nailing a trey after Johnson missed the free throw and ASU grabbed an offensive rebound.

Leading 47-46, the Mountaineers trailed only one more time until Hughes’ final charity toss.

Fueled by the offensive punch of Eaves and Ronshad Shabazz (29 points, six rebounds), App State showed its best production of the season on its own end of the floor.

Jake Babic (seven points, seven rebounds, six assists) capped and incredible floor game in the second half with a screaming dunk to expand Appalachian’s lead to 94-86 with 2:48 remaining, but the Eagles kept chipping away.

App State missed a pair of lay-ins, committed two turnovers and had a shot-clock violation when Burgess missed the rim on a three-pointer in the final 2:31.

The Mountaineers still led by five, 98-93, with one minute to play when Babic’s long pass to Lawson resulted in another dunk. That was before GSU closed the game on its 8-2 run.

“We blew it,” said Fox. “We didn’t make many plays when we were up (eight) and it cost us.”

Freshman point guard Tookie Brown (34 points, seven rebounds, three assists, three steals) was one of five Eagle players to score in double figures. Georgia Southern also survived losing three players to disqualification and had three others with four fouls on a night where the officials called 59 fouls and awarded 74 free throws.

“App State deserved to win the game as much as we did,” said Byington. “App State took it to us in the second half.”

Mountaineer players said they would take positives out of the game, even with the difficult finish.

“We’ve been working hard and it’s been clicking,” said Eaves. “We deserved it. (Hughes) just made a good shot. That’s all you can say.”