Best Virginia’s run in The Basketball Tournament came to an end Wednesday night at the Charleston Coliseum as Team 23 walked off with a 75-67 win.
“Credit to (Team 23), because they made tough shots all day,” said Best Virginia coach James Long, who also is in his second year as the head coach at WVU Tech after being both a player (2014-17) and staff member (2017-19) for the Mountaineer men’s basketball team. “Our guys played really hard and were focused on the game plan.
“There were ebbs and flows. There were so many changes energy-wise and momentum-wise. But give them credit, because they made tough shots.”
Having defeated WoCo Showtime, 70-67, and D2, 63-51, in its two previous TBT games, Best Virginia got off to a good start Wednesday against Team 23. Though 23 scored the first five points of the contest, the WVU alumni squad responded with a 10-0 run, led by five quick points from Nathan Adrian.
Best Virginia took a 20-17 advantage into the second quarter, but then Team 23 found its offensive flow. It converted 9 of 10 field goal attempts to close out the first half and held a 44-37 lead at halftime. In all, 23 made 17 of 25 shots from the floor (68%) in the 18-minute first half, while Best Virginia made just 13 of 30 (43.3%).
Best Virginia got things turned around in the third quarter, though, as it went on a 16-2 run to flip a 10-point deficit into a four-point, 53-49 lead. Kevin Jones took the game over for a long stretch with eight points in the period’s first four minutes.
Nathan Adrian provided Jones with some assistance, draining a 3-pointer late in the quarter to give Best Virginia a 58-53 advantage heading into the final period of the game.
BV’s lead grew as large as eight points early in the fourth quarter, but then 23 battled back again and held a 66-65 lead at the start of the under-four-minute Elam Ending.
Team 23 kept its charge going in the Elam, outscoring Best Virginia 9-2 in that decisive juncture to seal the victory.
Best Virginia finished with four players who scored in double figures — Jones with 14, Adrian with 12 as well as a game-high seven rebounds, John Flowers with 11 and Jamel Morris with 10. Team 23’s offense was led by Marcus Hall, who pumped in 20 points.
Team 23 now advances to the Elite Eight round of the TBT, where it will face Sideline Cancer on Saturday, July 31 in Dayton, Ohio. Sideline used a game-winning 3 to defeat the Bucketneers, 58-57, Wednesday in Charleston to earn its spot in the next round. The quarterfinal winner moves on to the TBT semifinal on Sunday, Aug. 1, and the championship game will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 3. At stake is a winner-take-all prize of $1 million for The Basketball Tournament victor that emerges through the 64-team, single-elimination bracket.
For Best Virginia, most of its players will likely return to professional teams in overseas leagues in the near future, some starting as early as next month. Adrian has recently signed a two-year contract with an Italian team, while Chase Harler has inked a deal with a club in Sweden and Logan Routt is headed to Turkey. Morris (Germany), Jones (Japan), Teyvon Myers (France), Alex Ruoff (Japan), Tarik Phillip (Italy), Jonathan Holton (Dominican Republic) and Flowers (France) all played professionally this past season and likely will get opportunities this coming season as well, if they want them.
“Don’t take this for granted, despite what happened today,” said Long of his comments to his team after the loss. “It was a special experience to be around each other again. You’re usually lucky a lot of times if you see one or two of your old teammates in the summer. We got to see each other all again and compete together. Charleston was phenomenal with all the Mountaineer fans. Despite what happened today, it doesn’t take away how special this experience was.”