On Tuesday, March 21, the Charlotte 49ers took on the Radford University Highlanders in the 2023 Discount Tire College Basketball Invitational (CBI) semifinals in Daytona Beach, Fla., at the Ocean Center, where the 49ers beat the Highlanders 63-56.
The victory for Charlotte allows them to take on the Eastern Kentucky University Colonels in the CBI Championship game. The Colonels defeated the Southern Utah University Thunderbirds 108-106 in double overtime, pushing the 49ers’ semifinal start time back about an hour.
“We played in one [championship] this season [Myrtle Beach Invitational] and are excited about it. It will be great if we can get this one. Hopefully, we learned our lessons from the last one,” said Head Coach Ron Sanchez. “Excited to be in the championship game; that’s why we came here.”
Charlotte jumped out early off the energetic play from Isaiah Folkes, earning seven points and a three from Jackson Threadgill to put the 49ers ahead 10-2.
DaQuan Smith for Radford led the way as they battled back to cut the Charlotte lead down to 18-16.
Free throw shooting from Lu’Cye Patterson and Brice Williams helped build the lead back out to 24-18 with 4:46 left in the opening half.
The Highlanders scored six points from three mid-range jumpers to tie the game at 24-24.
Igor Miličić Jr., who ended the first half the night before with a block, broke the tie with a three to put Charlotte in front 27-24 at the break.
Igor Milicic Jr. scores the final bucket going into halftime breaking the tie with @CharlotteMBB ahead of Radford 27-24 pic.twitter.com/QRxNjIe3M8— Sam Perry (@Sam_P_Sports) March 22, 2023
The teams both came out strong. Aly Khalifa opened up the half with a three, but then both teams battled back and forth. Madiaw Niang tied the game 32-32 with a mid-range jumper at the 15:53 mark.
Then Bryan Antoine and Williams traded layups. Each time one team would jump ahead, the other answered back.
Williams went up for a dunk to put Charlotte ahead 38-36, and that is where the momentum shifted. A three from Threadgill and another dunk from Williams put the 49ers ahead 43-36 with about 10 minutes to play.
A minute later, Patterson hit a three to make it 46-36, pulling away from Radford.
Lu’Cye Patterson(@LucyePatterson) hits the three to put Charlotte ahead 46-36 over Radford pic.twitter.com/E2eY24PHPE— Sam Perry (@Sam_P_Sports) March 22, 2023
Josiah Jeffers led the way for the Highlanders, cutting the Charlotte lead down to 57-52 with 42 seconds left.
Then they played the foul game, and the 49ers capitalized at the line making all six of their free throws or what Sanchez calls “game-winning shots.”
Charlotte won 63-56 to punch a ticket to the CBI Championship game.
Stars of the game
Williams made his presence known by playing 35 minutes, scoring 14 points, with eight coming from the charity stripe. He also grabbed 11 rebounds while dishing out three assists on the way to the victory.
Khalifa’s impact could be felt throughout the court as he led the 49ers in assists with five while scoring six points and grabbing seven rebounds. On the court, he provided steady play, setting screens and orchestrating the offense. He tied for the best +/- on the team at 15.
Bryan Antoine provided a solid offensive presence for the Highlanders, scoring 19 points on a 9-14 shooting clip. He grabbed four rebounds and had one assist on the night in his team’s losing effort.
Folkes continues to be a spark plug for Charlotte providing the energy the team needs to succeed. He carried over his performance from the beginning of the second half against Milwaukee into the opening minutes against Radford. He started the game 4-4 with nine points, willing his way to the basket to get the 49ers off to a hot start.
Free throw shooting continues to stay vital for Charlotte as they fight their way to the championship. When it comes to March basketball, the games will be physical, so getting to the line and capitalizing on those opportunities is crucial. Charlotte did that against the Highlanders as they shot 17-19 from the free-throw line en route to the victory.
Patterson has been a consistent force off the bench. Patterson has been a piece to the 49ers team all season and has embraced his newer role as the stabilizer off the bench.
He scored 13 points with three rebounds, one assist and a steal. He also made the most out of his trips to the free throw line, going 6-6 as he helped propel the team to the win.
Charlotte faces Eastern Kentucky in the CBI Championship on Wednesday, March 22, at the Ocean Center; the game will be nationally televised on ESPN2 at 5 p.m.