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james long

Best Virginia coach James Long and forward Nathan Adrian watch from the sideline at The Basketball Tournament Saturday at the Charleston Coliseum.

As this is written early Saturday evening, we’re about two days and 72 minutes worth of playing time — give or take a few minutes, depending on how long the Elam Ending lasts — from getting what most folks want to see out of The Basketball Tournament:

Best Virginia vs. Herd That. Or, in a parallel universe, WVU vs. Marshall.

Both teams won their first-round TBT West Virginia Regional games Saturday afternoon at the Charleston Coliseum, with Herd That dispatching Team DRC 85-76 and Best Virginia surviving a late-game scare to defeat WoCo Showtime 70-67. More on the latter later.

If both win again in the second round Monday night, Best Virginia and Herd That will square off at 9 p.m. Wednesday, with a trip to TBT’s quarterfinals July 31 in Dayton, Ohio on the line. (Not to mention keeping alive their hopes for the $1 million, winner-take-all prize that goes to the TBT champion).

Remember the anticipation when WVU and Marshall faced off in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2018? Of course you do.

A Best Virginia-Herd That TBT battle might not carry quite as much national cachet as an NCAA game, but we’ll take whatever we can get, especially when it’s right here in our backyard.

Our backyard was abuzz with excitement during Saturday’s games. I haven’t been able to track down an exact attendance figure yet, but the Coliseum’s lower bowl was at near-capacity toward the end of Herd That’s game and throughout Best Virginia’s skin-of-its-teeth win.

Which brings us to the Elam Ending ...

As those who have been following along already know, the Elam Ending — once exclusive to TBT but now also used in the NBA All-Star Game and some summer pro leagues — dictates that the game clock is turned off at the first stoppage of play after the four-minute mark of the fourth quarter, and a target game-ending score is set. You take the points of the team in the lead, add eight, and the first team to reach that target is the winner. It’s designed to eliminate intentional fouls and seemingly never-ending trips to the foul line that so often mark the end of “normal” basketball games.

There wasn’t much Elam Ending suspense in Herd That’s win. The Marshall alumni team was up 77-73 at the under-4:00 stoppage, and Herd That outscored Team DNC 8-3 down the stretch, with Rondale Watson’s rebound dunk eclipsing the Elam Ending point target and ending the game.

Best Virginia’s finish was not as simple.

The WVU alumni team led WoCo 61-52 at Elam Ending time, setting the targeted winning point total at 69.

When Jamel Morris hit a 3-pointer to give Best Virginia a 66-57 lead, and when Kevin Jones’ hook shot in the lane made it 68-59, it all seemed pretty academic. One more point — free throw, bucket, 3-pointer — and most in the crowd go home happy.

Well, Best Virginia nearly flunked this test. While the former Mountaineers were missing from near and far, WoCo Showtime scored eight unanswered points, making it a one-point game, 68-67. The Wofford College alums even had possession of the ball with a chance to Elam-end it.

But that’s when Best Virginia’s Tarik Phillip came up with a steal and passed up the court to a streaking Kevin Jones, who dropped in the game-winning points for a 70-67 Best Virginia win.

Phew.

It was an imperfect illustration of how the Elam Ending works. If you have the lead, you can’t milk the clock by extending possessions, because the game clock is shut off. (Although the shot clock is still in effect.) You still have to score to win it.

When Best Virginia reached 68 points, just about every fan in that packed lower bowl — at least those of WVU persuasion — was on their feet for every crucial possession, and stayed on their feet until Jones’ layup ended it.

Other TBT first-day observations:

  • I think it’s safe to say that Best Virginia/WVU fans outnumbered Herd That/Marshall fans, and the former group was certainly louder. They were accompanied, fittingly, by the WVU Alumni Band, playing all its greatest hits. Also, the WVU contingent repeatedly broke out its “Let’s goooooo ... Mountaineers!” chants, while seldom was heard “We are ... MARSHALL!”
  • Herd That player and TBT semi-legend Ot Elmore scored only two points and really wasn’t much of a factor, but when he drove the lane for that one bucket, it prompted the loudest spontaneous roar from the crowd all afternoon — not counting the Elam Ending-ending scores, of course.
  • TBT continues with four Sunday games. It’ll be interesting to see how many folks will come out to the Coliseum with no Mountain State-based teams in competition.

I figure the place will be rocking again Monday night, though, and if we get what we’re wanting on Wednesday .... look out.

Contact Nick Scala at 304-348-7947 or nickscala@wvgazettemail.com. Follow him on Twitter @nick_scala319.