CAC CHAMPIONS! Captains Win Title With Overtime Thriller over Salisbury, 68-67

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NEWPORT NEWS, Va.- Christopher Newport captured its first Capital Athletic Conference post-season title Saturday in dramatic fashion, holding off Salisbury 68-67 in overtime. The victory was the 17th straight for CNU and gives the Captains an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Championship beginning next weekend.

Although March is still a few days away, Madness would accurately describe Saturday's frenzied finish at the Freeman Center. Sophomore Aaron McFarland's free throw with four-tenths of a second on the clock in overtime was all that separated the two Top 25 programs. The foul called that put McFarland at the line at the buzzer was discussed at length by the officiating crew before being finalized, and four-tenths of a second were put back on the clock. Salisbury then rebounded McFarland's miss on the second free throw attempt and time expired and the fifth-ranked Captains began their celebration.

"I'm so proud of this team and what we've accomplished," Head Coach John Krikorian said. "We have remained focused on our goals all season and now we've got more work to do in the NCAA Tournament."

The battle for the title saw the lead change hands ten times, and neither team ever led by more than six points.

Nine of CNU's 12 overtime points came on three three-point field goals, including two by McFarland, who finished with 13 points.Salisbury twice battled back from six-point deficits in the extra period to pull even. Junior Kevin Regimbal knocked down four three-pointers, including one in overtime, to lead the Captains with 18 points.

"That was just a special college basketball game to watch," Krikorian continued. "I give Salisbury so much credit, they made some amazing shots, and they certainly deserve to be in the NCAA Tournament."

The third meeting of the schools this season featured two of the top five defenses in the nation. The defensive struggle began as a back-and-forth first half featured four lead changes. Salisbury built a four-point advantage at the intermission, 27-23. CNU's shooting improved greatly during the second half as the Captains made 13 of 24 shots (54 percent) after only shooting 39 percent from the floor in the opening half. Christopher Newport went ahead by as many as five in the second half, 46-41, only to see the Sea Gulls come back. The Captains failed to put the game away down the stretch, making just four of nine foul shots in the second stanza, and just three of six attempts in the overtime period.

Salisbury is now 21-6 and was ranked 23rd in the nation last week. Senior Adrien Straughn led the Sea Gulls with 16 points, including four three-pointers. The Sea Gulls now will hope for an at-large bid to the 62-team tournament.

Christopher Newport's victory avenged a loss to Salisbury in last season's title game in Salisbury, MD., that mirrored Saturday's finish. The Sea Gulls prevailed a year ago thanks to two free throws with seven-tenths of a second on the clock at the Maggs Center.

Junior Tim Daly recorded his fifth double-double of the season with 15 points and ten rebounds. Sophomore Marcus Carter also finished in double digits with 15 points.

The Captains are now 26-1, and have matched the CNU school record for wins in a single season. The 1997-98 squad went 26-2 and advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

The NCAA will release the 62-team bracket on Monday afternoon. CNU will be making its 20th trip to the NCAA Tournament, and the third since Krikorian took over the program.

Saturday's championship game was the 1,300th in CNU men's basketball history. The Captains are now 863-437 all-time for a winning percentage of .664.