His team was trailing East Tennessee State by three points and there was less than a second on the clock.
Beech, an 85-percent free throw shooter, missed the first one. Then he missed the second. It was anticlimactic when he intentionally missed the third hoping for some kind of miracle rebound.
The result was an 88-85 ETSU victory Saturday night at UNF Arena, one that put the Bucs back into a tie for third place in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
The wild finish capped a game in which Rashawn Rembert broke the school record for 3-pointers in a season. But the Bucs weren’t celebrating very hard. At halftime, forward Hunter Harris found out that his father had died.
“It’s a good win for us, but we leave here with heavy hearts,” ETSU coach Murry Bartow said, fighting back tears. “The team knew about it and we weren’t sure if he wanted to play the second half, and he said he did.”
Harris continued to play and scored 12 of his 18 points in the second half before fouling out.
Jalen Riley’s two free throws with 3.2 seconds left broke an 85-85 tie. Kinard Gadsden-Gilliard then stole a long inbounds pass and was fouled with 1.2 seconds left. He made one free throw, giving the Ospreys one last chance.
They almost pulled it off. Travis Wallace caught another long inbounds pass and made a quick dish to Beech far out on the right wing. Gadsden-Gilliard charged at him and hit him just after he shot, giving the sharpshooter three free throws.
“I knew he’s a great shooter and he can make them from far out,” Gadsden-Gilliard said. “I was trying not to let him get a good shot, but I got a little too aggressive and made a bonehead play. Lucky it worked out for us. I was shocked when he missed.”
Beech had made his only other two free throws earlier in the game.
“You expect them to make those things,” North Florida coach Matthew Driscoll said.
The Bucs improved to 17-13 overall, 10-7 in the A-Sun. They thought they’d clinch a home game in the conference tournament with a win on Saturday, but they learned there is one complicated scenario that includes multiple ties for third or fourth that could drop them to the No. 5 seed based on tiebreakers.
ETSU went 12 for 21 on 3-pointers and didn’t make a two-point basket over the final nine minutes, relying on four 3-pointers and eight free throws for their final 20 points.
Rembert’s record came with 9:12 left in the game when he took a pass from Petey McClain, used a head fake to get open, and swished a shot from the right wing. It was his 87th 3-pointer of the season, breaking Courtney Pigram’s record set in 2006-07.
Rembert then celebrated 12 seconds later by stealing the inbounds pass and laying down an emphatic one-handed dunk while being fouled, a play that even amazed himself. After he came back down to the court, he momentarily stared into the increasingly rowdy student section before converting the thee-point play.
“After I hit it, I thought about it, ‘I just broke the record,’” Rembert said. “And coach was yelling, ‘Get back, get back.’ I just slapped it and the dude didn’t run after it and it was showtime.”
The sudden six-point spurt put the Bucs up 68-61.
“I think my teammates wanted me to get the record as much as I did,” Rembert said. “It’s a relief.”
Rembert tied the record in an unlikely fashion when he banked in a long 3-pointer with 8:04 left in the first half. He finished 4 for 7 on 3-pointers with 18 points after going 1 for 9 in the last game.
He now has 88 3-pointers this season.
“He deserves it,” Bartow said. “Nobody on our team works harder than Rashawn.”
Riley led the Bucs with 19 points, making all nine of his free throws. He also led the team with five assists. Lester Wilson had another solid shooting night, going 5 for 8 from the field — 3 for 6 on 3-pointers — and scoring 15 points. He only took one shot after halftime.
Gadsden-Gilliard wound up with 16 points, making all three of his 3-pointers, including two big ones late in the game.
ETSU committed seven turnovers. Nobody had more than one.
North Florida (14-15, 8-8) was led by Wallace’s 19 points. Dallas Moore added 18 and Beech had 11. The Ospreys out-rebounded ETSU 39-33.
“It was, unfortunately, one of those really good basketball games that if you were sitting in the stands, you’d really enjoy watching,” Driscoll said.
Since becoming an NCAA Division I member nine years ago, North Florida is 24-3 when it scores 80 points or more. All three losses have been to ETSU.
The Bucs close the regular season on Friday at USC Upstate in a game that could be for third place.