Sunday, March 04, 2007

From Chattanooga Times Free Press

Wildcats end Cremins’ run
By David Uchiyama Staff Writer

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — Bobby Cremins’ return to basketball as a head coach ended — for this season.

Davidson held off a late surge by the College of Charleston to capture the Southern Conference basketball tournament and its second straight automatic bid to the NCAA tournament with a 72-65 win over the Cougars.

“It’s been an incredible year,” said the 57-year-old former Georgia Tech coach. “We had hopes of winning. We felt like we were on a destiny of something different.

“It could have been a fantastic story — an incredible story. It was nice to make a run at it.”

That story began in 1975 when he became head coach at Appalachian State and continued in 1981 when he went to Georgia Tech, through his retirement for the 1999-2000 season.

For six years he analyzed games for TV, walked the beaches of Hilton Head, S.C. Then he got the itch to coach again and accepted the Charleston job last summer.

“A lot of times I think I can be back in Hilton Head playing tennis or doing charity work,” Cremins said. “There were times early on in the season when I said, ‘What he heck did I get myself into?’”

He reached the SoCon tournament final. His team had a lead, several times including a 56-51 edge with 9:32 to go Saturday. Then the Wildcats went on a 13-3 run to take a five-point lead.

Charleston closed within three on two free throws by Dontaye Draper, who lifted the Cougars into the finals with a 38-point game Friday but barely mustered eight points Saturday.

Davidson coach Bob McKillop called time out and designed a play for tournament MVP Stephen Curry, who led all players with 29 points. But Jason Richards cut backdoor for an easy layup with 1:20 to go.

“We knew they were going to do something special,” Cremins said. “We were not ready for the backdoor.”

And he wasn’t ready for his Disney story to end at the hands of Davidson, which has its own story — losing a bunch of seniors and going from a predicted thirdplace finish in the South Division to conference champion.

“When I got done canonizing our seven seniors (at the team banquet in April) I announced what will happen next year: ‘I think you fans will be surprised,’” McKillop said. “And we’ve been a surprise ever since April.”

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