As the basketball left Akeem Richmond’s hand on Tuesday night, the whole of Greenvile held its breath some 2,000 miles away, hoping that the graceful arc would find its way through the hoop. Though the buzzer-beating 3-pointer silenced the capacity crowd at the Dee Evans Center in Ogden, Utah, it unleashed a wave of elation that could be heard across the Pirate nation.
East Carolina University first put forth a men’s basketball team in 1931, marking the school’s initial foray into intercollegiate athletics, but had enjoyed precious little success in the years that followed. Undaunted, the young men of this squad proved that hard work and determination could overcome decades of history and enable them to bring home the school’s first postseason championship.
When the year began, Head Coach Jeff Lebo knew his team would boast a healthy mix of veteran experience and raw talent. The Pirates lost only two seniors from a squad that finished 15-16 a year earlier and some predicted that the rising upperclassmen could enable the squad to compete well within Conference USA. East Carolina had never won 20 games in a season, but the feat for once seemed possible.
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