Chapel Hill High graduate Denzel Ingram hugged his mother, then got some good-natured ribbing from his father near center court here at Royal Farms Arena.
Marcus Bryan, a product of Ravenscroft, carried around a small strand of one of the basketball nets his team had just cut down.
And Cary’s Chris Flemmings of Green Hope High took several photos of himself with the Most Valuable player trophy from the Colonial Athletic Association tournament.
Led by a strong core of Triangle athletes, UNC-Wilmington (25-7) won its first CAA title in men’s basketball in 10 years Monday, earning an NCAA tournament bid.
Ingram played all 45 minutes against Hofstra and had 17 points, Flemmings had 19 points and six rebounds and Bryan, a key reserve, had three blocked shots and three rebounds in just 17 minutes as No. 2 seed UNCW beat top-seed Hofstra 80-73 in overtime in Baltimore.
“I think we just have great chemistry. I enjoying being part of this team,” said the 6-foot-5 Flemmings, a walk-on who had transferred from Division II Barton in Wilson, N.C.
Bryan was 10 years old when he first met Ingram and the two were travel teammates.
“It is nice to have some guys on the team that you know,” said Bryan, who played against teammate Kevin Hickson of Charlotte and Providence Day School in high school.
There were 3,031 fans on Monday, wearing the teal colors of a UNCW team that won three games in three days for its fifth CAA title.
“It feels good. This is what we have been working for,” said Ingram, standing on the court as the Seahawks celebrated.
“It is an incredible feeling,” Flemmings said. “These are some of the best fans in the world.”
The three players from the Raleigh area all began their college careers elsewhere.
Redshirt junior guard Ingram and redshirt sophomore forward Bryan transferred from UNC Charlotte.
And the Flemmings story is even more compelling, after he played two seasons at Barton before he became a walk-on at UNCW and had to sit out last season.
Flemmings is averaging16.1 points per game for the Seahawks, who will find out Sunday who they will play in the NCAA tournament.
While Ingram and Flemmings were all-tourney performers, Bryan averages 4.7 points and gets far less attention. He had 17 points for Ravenscroft in the 2012 state title game as the school won its first state crown in 32 years.
“I am just thankful the coach and teammates kept faith in me. I didn’t have such a good first half but I kept working hard and it paid off down the stretch,” Bryan said Monday night, surrounded by fans and teammates on the court.
Ingram had a key block with 2:30 left in regulation and he had another block in the closing seconds of overtime.
Seahawks second-year coach Kevin Keatts was impressed with the effort of Bryan against Hofstra’s Juan’ya Green, the CAA Player of the Year who made just 2 of 16 shots for a tough 13 points.
“He was great on ball screen defense,” Keatts said of Bryan. “I thought Marcus did a good job on him.”
Keatts is a former Rick Pitino assistant at Louisville who took over at UNCW after the departure of Buzz Peterson, the former UNC roommate with Michael Jordan. Keatts was named the CAA Coach of the Year for the second straight time last week. Now he has his first title.
“He just told us we were going to win championships and that is what we did,” said Ingram, whose 3-pointer gave UNCW a lead of 79-73 with 34.5 seconds left in overtime.
Editor’s note: Free-lance writer David Driver of Maryland has covered the CAA for nearly 25 years. He can be reached at www.davidsdriver.com