The NC State Men’s Club Basketball team competed in the annual Battle of the Brickyard Tournament this weekend. The tournament consists of many regular ACC rivals such as Clemson, UNC and Duke along with other in-state opponents like UNC-Wilmington. The tournament culminated in a thrilling championship game between NC State and Clemson, which was held at 3:30 PM at Carmichael Gym in Raleigh. It was a back-and-forth match-up the whole game, but the Tigers outlasted the Wolfpack to win the championship, 72 to 69. The electrifying game shows that club sports have a lot to offer for sports fans who want to see passion and high-level competition.
The first half of the game saw the Clemson Tigers get hot from the three-point line early, with NC State having to fight to keep the game close. NCSU was down one of their big man, and it showed early against a large Clemson lineup. NC State’s starting center, Wes Williams, did his best with a small lineup by commanding rebounds and providing a reliable paint option for NC State despite usually being the only big man on the court. It showed how club basketball can be thrilling to watch because each team knows their strengths and it becomes a battle of who competes harder. Clemson continued to hit three and cause turnovers, while NC State relied on their leadership and execution to stay with the red-hot Tigers. One of NC State’s veterans, 5th-year senior guard and co-president of the club Matthew Hartl, gave NC State a 25-24 lead at the half with a strong drive to the basket.
The second half continued the entertainment for the small crowd at Carmichael Gymnasium. NC State was jump-started to an early lead by a handful of early three-pointers by junior Riley Edwards and fifth-year senior Anfernee Ellis. However, Clemson refused to go away despite cooling off from three. Clemson took a one-point lead with 40 seconds left in regulation, but Wes Williams answered with a deep three to give the Wolfpack a two-point lead with 26 seconds left. Clemson refused to quit and scored a layup off an offensive rebound with 2.5 seconds left to tie the game at 56 apiece and send the game into its first overtime.
The first overtime finished in remarkable fashion. Clemson scored a wide-open layup off of a half-court inbound with 3 seconds left to make it 61-63 and seemingly secure the game. The Pack called timeout and drew up an excellent play. Williams caught the inbounds at half court, threw a quick outlet to Hartl who drew a shooting foul as time expired. With no time on the clock Hartl nailed two pressure-packed free throws to tie the game at 63 and send the teams into their second overtime.
The second overtime did not go in NC State’s favor. Clemson took a 72 to 66 lead with only 20 seconds left in the game, and the Wolfpack was in trouble. Hartl hit a huge three pointer with 17 seconds left to keep the Pack in the game. After a quick foul, Clemson proceeded to miss the first free throw of a one-and-one and the Wolfpack has life once again. Wes Williams missed a desperation three from the top of the key with two seconds left and the Tigers celebrated the championship. It was a hard-fought game between two teams that respect each other, and the drama did not disappoint for the fans in attendance.
When asked what his team could have done differently to put the Tigers away, co-president Hartl said, “We were down one of our bigs so that hurt us against such a tall team, but we really just need to put them away when we had the momentum late in the second half, the game shouldn’t have gone to overtime, and free throws!” The Pack’s senior leadership will use this as a learning experience as their fall continues, and they deserve continued support from the Wolfpack community.