Despite a scoring output never before seen at N.C. Wesleyan, Brandon Givens biggest contribution to the Bishops’ double overtime victory Wednesday night against Christopher Newport was a great pass at the perfect time.
Givens, the second-leading scorer in Division III, finished with 50 points – a career-high and program record. But driving the lane with just seconds remaining in the second overtime, he chose not to shoot.
Instead, with just a one-point lead, Givens passed the ball off to Devontae Williams, who finished underneath the basket for just his third made shot of the game.
Moments later, when Christopher Newport’s last-second 3-pointer clanged off the rim, N.C. Wesleyan had snapped its five-game losing streak with a 112-109 win.
“He is one of the few guys who can get 50 and someone will leave the gym saying he’s really unselfish,” coach John Thompson said. “He is an extremely unselfish player. He has the ability to take over a game, but he is very perceptive about the game and reads defenses well. He’s going to find the open man, and he makes some great passes.”
Without a surge late in the second quarter and a few key buckets from Givens himself, the 6-foot-6 senior transfer wouldn’t have been in position to make the right pass.
N.C. Wesleyan (8-5, 1-4) trailed by 16 points, its largest deficit of the game, with just 5:53 to play.
Two big 3-pointers from Givens and a few big shots from his teammates gave N.C. Wesleyan a chance to tie the score. Julian Martin’s bankshot from behind the 3-point arc as time expired sent the game into overtime, tied 91-91.
“They gave us a window, and we stepped through the window,” Thompson said. “It’s a lot of credit to our guys.”
The Bishops took a quick lead in the first overtime before losing the lead on an old-fashioned 3-point play by Christopher Newport’s Nik Biberaj with 45 seconds to play. With 26 seconds to play, Givens hit two free throws to send the game to a second overtime.
“I’m so glad he’s here,” said N.C. Wesleyan forward Josh Morrison, who finished with 24 points. “He’s a big addition to the team.”
Givens, a transfer playing in his first season at N.C. Wesleyan, hit two more 3-pointers in the second overtime out of necessity. He’d much rather drive the lane, something he did with 30 seconds to play when he hit a floater to give the Bishops a 110-109 lead.
“I really don’t like shooting the 3,” Givens said.
Givens scored 26 of his 50 points in the final 17 minutes of the game and scored eight points out of N.C. Wesleyan’s 12 in the final overtime period. But he passed off the final bucket.
“I have faith in my teammates,” Givens said. “I knew he was going to make the shot.”
N.C. Wesleyan, which made the NCAA Tournament two years ago and was upset in the first round of the USA South Tournament last year, was in the midst of a five-game losing streak after winning seven games to start the season. With Christopher Newport having won 18 straight games in USA South play, the Captains seemed like the last team the Bishops would want to see.
That’s not the way Thompson saw it.
“I thought going in it was a very winnable game based on what our team was capable of,” Thompson said. “I knew our team could win, but they came in playing better than we had been playing.”
The way Givens played Wednesday can change the fortunes of any game. Even after a career night, he made a point of thanking the people he passes to as well.
“They help a lot,” Givens said of his teammates. “If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t win. My team helps me a lot.”
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or email@example.com