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Sword’s triple stuns Herd That, lifts Team 23 to 74-71 victory

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Charleston Coliseum crowd was in a frenzy with Herd That having rallied to tie Team 23 at 71 in Monday’s second-round matchup in The Basketball Tournament.

Seconds later, however, the atmosphere was that of stunned silence as JD Sword drained a 3-pointer from out front just before the shot clock expired to lift Team 23 to a 74-71 victory and a spot in TBT’s Sweet 16.

“I knew there was 2 seconds on the clock,” Sword said. “I didn’t have enough time to get to the rim, so when I got the ball, I knew I was going to shoot it. I’ve been shooting those shots in practice every day, so I had confidence it was going in.”

Team 23, a No. 6 seed, will take on the winner of Best Virginia/D2 at 9 p.m. Wednesday for the right to move on Dayton and play in a quarterfinal.

Herd That faced a 64-62 deficit ahead of the Elam Ending, requiring the winning team to score 72 points.

When Dakarai Tucker connected on a triple off the right wing to give Team 23 a 71-66 lead, it appeared Sword’s heroics would hardly be needed.

But James Kelly answered with a 3 of his own to make it a two-point game, and Rondale Watson drew a charge that led to Jacorey Williams’ tying dunk.

“Some people say take a three, some say take the open two,” Herd That guard Jon Elmore said. “I thought we made the right play.”

Lemon and Williams each turned the ball over on their team’s ensuing possessions, before Sword drained the game-winner beyond the arc.

“If you look at him in the (NBA) G League, he’s always made big plays down the stretch and that’s something we’re looking forward to throughout,” Team 23 coach Marc Hughes said. “Loved his performance tonight and he came through for us down the stretch. He’s not just a good player, but a good person and normally good things happen to good people.”

Herd That, a No. 3 seed, was plagued by a slow start that saw it fall behind 22-14 after one quarter.

“We shot ourselves in the foot a little bit with a slow start,” HT guard Jon Elmore said. “We made our run and it’s a game of runs.”

The deficit grew to be as much as 11 in the second period, but HT pulled to within four before Terrell Smith’s 3 sent Team 23 into halftime with a 44-37 lead.

Herd That postgame press conference 

While no Team 23 player had more than seven points at the break, 10 of 11 players to see action scored.

“We don’t have a bench,” Hughes said. “We have two starting fives.”

HT, meanwhile, got most of its offensive production from guards Elmore and Browning, who scored 11 and 10 points, respectively, in the opening half.

The contest appeared to be getting away from Herd That in the third quarter, with Team 23 limiting it to seven points over the first 8-plus minutes of the frame. When Sword scored in the paint 1:50 before the fourth, it gave Team 23 its biggest lead at 58-44.

However, Elmore closed the period on a personal 7-0 run to cut the deficit in half.

“One of the dudes on their bench started talking crazy,” Elmore said. “I don’t know if he realized who he was talking to, but he made a mistake. I got into kill mode and I probably should’ve done that a little earlier.”

Elmore started the fourth with a 3 and from that point forward, Herd That never trailed by more than six. Browning’s triple brought HT to within 64-62 just outside of the 4-minute mark, and that’s how the game went into the Elam Ending.

“We’ve been there before and been there in college,” Browning said. “We’ve had to battle our whole life to get where we’re at.”

Raphiael Putney led Team 23 with 15 points, while Sword scored 13 on 5-of-5 shooting. Eric Griffin added 10 points to give the victors three double figure scorers.

Team 23 shot 47 percent overall (28 of 59) and 39 percent from deep (9 of 23), compared to Herd That’s 40 percent shooting and 6 of 22 effort from 3-point range.

Elmore led all players with 28 points, Browning scored 15 and Williams added 13 in defeat.

Ot Elmore was limited to 8 minutes and did not play in the second half.

“He’s got a pinched nerve in his back and had been getting a shot to try and play,” Jon Elmore said. “But he wasn’t capable of going.”

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