NEW YORK (AP) – Pierria Henry felt as though he stood on the foul line for half an hour.
Officially, under two seconds ticked off the game clock as the Charlotte guard hit eight free throws in the final moments of a wild start to the Atlantic 10 tournament in its new home at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. The 49ers stunned Richmond 68-63 Thursday when the Spiders were called for three technical fouls in the last five seconds.
Richmond led 63-60 with 4.7 seconds to go, then watched helplessly as Henry drained shot after shot from the line.
“You couldn’t make that up if you want to make a movie out of that one,” Charlotte coach Alan Major said.
It all started when the Spiders chose to foul the 49ers to prevent Charlotte from attempting a tying 3-pointer. As Henry’s free throw swished through the net on the front end of a one-and-one, Richmond’s Derrick Williams and the 49ers’ Willie Clayton became entangled setting up for a potential rebound.
Williams shoved Clayton to the floor, and the New Yorker playing near home drew a whistle. Reggie Greenwood, the conference coordinator of officials, said afterward that because the play happened during a dead ball, by rule the foul was a technical.
Instead of needing to intentionally miss the second free throw to hope for a tip to tie the game, the 49ers found themselves with three more foul shots — plus possession — to try to take the lead. Henry made the second end of the one-and-one, then both his attempts for the technical bounced around the rim and in to give Charlotte a 64-63 lead.
“When I was at the free-throw line and huddling up, my teammates told me, `Man, we’re going to make this. We’re going to win the game and move on and take care of business for the next day,”’ Henry said.
Williams, a junior who grew up in Harlem and played his last two years of high school ball at powerhouse St. Anthony in Jersey City, didn’t want to talk after the game.
“Basketball’s a hard game; it’s very physical,” coach Chris Mooney said. “There is a lot of positioning and things that happen during the course of the game, and you kind of have to make sure that recognizing the time and score of the game that we can’t have anything happen like that. He’s a great young player for us. He’s a really good kid who has done a lot of good things for us.
“It’s disappointing. I’m sure it’s most disappointing for him that this would happen and kind of the game to turn out that way because of what happened.”
Richmond had to foul, and when Henry forced up a shot from near midcourt as he was being grabbed, the referees awarded him three free throws. Mooney was then called for two technicals and ejected.
Mooney paced outside the locker room for several minutes after being led off the court, muttering, “How can they decide the game ...”
“I was upset and probably too upset,” he said later. “So, again, I apologize. I wish it wouldn’t have happened like that. I can’t take it back right now, but I certainly wish I could, and I wish the whole last 4½ seconds would have been a little bit different.”
That sequence resulted in a whopping seven additional foul shots for Henry with 2.8 seconds remaining, and he made four of them for the final margin, finishing with 28 points.
“It’s very frustrating knowing that we couldn’t do anything about it, knowing that we couldn’t stop them from scoring,” Richmond guard Kendall Anthony said. “It was just hard watching it, how that unraveled.”
Ninth-seeded Charlotte (21-10, 8-8) faces top-seeded Saint Louis in the quarterfinals Friday.
Freshman Terry Allen had hit a 3-pointer with 82 seconds left to give Richmond its first lead since more than seven minutes remained. After Greg Robbins drew a charge on Charlotte’s Terrence Williams, Cedrick Lindsay’s floater put Richmond up 57-54 with 38 seconds remaining.
The Spiders then made six straight free throws after 49ers scores to maintain the three-point lead. Lindsay made a pair with 5.9 seconds to go, and Richmond decided to foul, even though Charlotte had not made a 3-pointer all game, was last in the conference this season in 3-point shooting, and had seen four key players foul out.
Lindsay’s 19 points led eighth-seeded Richmond (18-14, 8-8). Leading scorer Darien Brothers cut his right, shooting hand in the regular-season finale and needed stiches, and he played with it taped Thursday. He shot just 2 for 9 after scoring a career-high 39 points in the Spiders’ 81-61 win over Charlotte on Jan. 19.
“It hurts a lot,” Brothers said. “The game was there for us to win. You know, it was a silly foul at the end that caused them to win the game.”
Until the bizarre final seconds, the game was a matchup in styles. Charlotte dominated inside, outscoring the Spiders 44-16 in the paint. Clayton and Chris Braswell combined for 25 second-half points, and the 49ers outrebounded Richmond 43-22.
The Spiders shot 7 of 21 on 3-point attempts, while Charlotte was 0 for 5. And Richmond, which committed only three turnovers, used its quickness to get Charlotte in foul trouble. In the double bonus with more than eight minutes left, the Spiders attempted 26 free throws in the second half while making just five field goals.
Yet all anyone will remember is the way it ended.
“It definitely stinks,” Robbins said. “We put ourselves in a place to win, and it’s going to stick with us for a while.”