CHARLESTON, W. Va. — Armored Athlete’s quest to the million dollar prize in The Basketball Tournament (TBT) came to an end on Monday afternoon, losing to the Bucketneers 79-60 in the second round of the single elimination tournament.
Armored Athlete’s general manager AJ Mahar is a former Mount Anthony athlete and girls basketball coach. Mahar’s Armored Athlete squad was awarded the fourth seed in the West Virginia Region of the 64-team bracket.
The No. 12 Bucketneers, an East Tennessee State University alumni team, pulled off the upset thanks to an impressive shooting performance from long range, led by guard Desonta Bradford who poured in a game-high 30 points.
Both teams struggled to put the ball in the basket early, each scoring just one basket through the first three minutes of play.
Armored Athlete’s John Roberson made his defender bite on a ball fake on the right wing and hit an opener three to give his team their first points, and first lead, of the contest.
After an 0-5 start, Armored Athlete hit seven of its next nine shot attempts, with their first five makes coming from behind the arc. By the end of the first quarter, they held a 19-12 lead.
The Bucketneers responded in a big way in the second quarter, going on an 18-0 run at one point to build a 32-26 lead. Tray Boyd III and Bradford led the charge offensively, hitting shots from deep.
A David Dudzinski two-handed slam in transition temporarily stopped the bleeding for Armored Athlete, cutting the deficit to four points, but the Bucketneers never looked back and held the momentum — and the lead — for the remainder of the contest.
By halftime, the Bucketneers extended its lead to double digits, 41-30.
The Bucketneers slightly outplayed Armored Athlete in the third quarter. Armored Athlete’s Coty Clarke hit a three pointer in isolation in the closing seconds of the quarter, bringing Armored Athlete back within a dozen to begin the fourth.
The Bucketneers once again responded by building its lead to 20 points by the four minute mark of the fourth quarter, signaling the start of the Elam Ending; a variation to the end of games that makes TBT different from any other basketball tournament.
“The Elam Ending calls for the game clock to be shut off at the first dead ball under four minutes in the fourth quarter or second half. A target score is then established by adding eight points to the leading team’s score,” per the TBT website.
At that point, the Bucketneers held a 71-51 lead and had possession of the basketball as the clock struck four minutes. To begin the Elam Ending, the Bucketneers called a timeout at the four minute mark. The target score was set to 79, with the first team to reach or exceed that mark winning the contest.
Armored Athlete’s Malcom Miller scored the first basket of the Elam Ending, a floater in the lane, but the deficit was too much to overcome as Courtney Pigram hit the game-ending bucket, a three pointer in the left corner to bring the Bucketneers to the target score of 79 and bringing them one step closer to the million dollar prize.
Armored Athlete won its opening round matchup against No. 13 HBCUNITED 88-52 on Sunday afternoon.