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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, March 12, 2013

By Brian Bailey

Brian Bailey

Pirates go treasure hunting in Tulsa


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Brian BaileyReplay Monday night's BRIAN BAILEY SHOW. Brian's guests were ECU basketball coach Jeff Lebo (left) and NBC 17 sports director Todd Gibson (below right). Eastern North Carolina's longest running sports radio call-in show airs each Monday night from 6:30-7:30 on Pirate Radio 1250 and 930.
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By Brian Bailey
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East Carolina hopes to rock the city of Tulsa, host to the Conference USA Basketball Tournaments, on two fronts this week.

It’s the first time I can recall that both the ECU men's and women's teams received first round byes in their respective tourneys.

The Pirate women are the number two seed. Heather Macy and company have a first round bye and will play the winner between Memphis and Southern Miss on Thursday night.

The ladies have had a stellar season, winning 21 games. Now the awards are rolling in.

ECU head coach Heather Macy was tabbed Conference USA Coach of the Year and senior Celeste Stewart was honored as a first-team All-Conference USA selection.

Junior forward forward Kristine Mial earned the league’s Sixth Player of the Year award and senior center Britny Edwards was named to the All-Defensive Team.

Now the women hope to make some big noise in the tournament.

The fourth-seeded men also play on Thursday night. East Carolina will take on the number five seed and host team, Tulsa, in the late game that day.

“It’s a tough draw, getting Tulsa in Tulsa,” said Pirate coach Jeff Lebo as his team got set to leave for the event on Monday. “Our kids have overcome a lot already this year and I think they’ll be ready to play.”

Forward Maurice Kemp and point guard Miguel Paul led the way all season, and they were stars on senior night in the Pirates’ season finale win over Marshall.

Lebo was very impressed with the play of his seniors.

“They have been tough,” said Lebo. “They’ve battled. They took a heavy risk when they came to East Carolina. It wasn’t fashionable to come to ECU and play basketball.”

Kemp is a great story. The junior college transfer changed positions and blossomed into a Conference USA all-star.

Lebo knows how hard Kemp has worked.

“I have ridden him harder than any senior in my career," said Lebo. “Typically I’m easier on the seniors, but not this time. I would come to practice and tell him that I was going to ride him and he would just smile and say, ‘That’s what I want coach.’ I am very proud of him.”

Kemp was emotional as he recapped his career after his winning effort on senior night.

“These guys are my brothers,” Kemp said. “We do everything as a family. I love every one of these guys. I love my coaches. It’s been a pleasure.”

The Pirates need three wins to advance to the NCAA Tournament. Jeff Lebo has had success in the postseason with this program. He knows this squad has a shot in Tulsa.

“We have achieved a lot of things,” said Lebo. “I told them you have an opportunity to do a lot more. You put yourself in a position to have it. While we’re here we might as well seize the moment. You have worked hard for six months to put yourself in this situation to grab a pot of gold.”

Win or lose, the Pirates are likely bound for the postseason in some fashion. While the NIT appears to be a long shot, the CIT ( Tournament) or the CBI (College Basketball Invitational) appear to be very much within reach.

“I’m 95 percent sure that we’ll get a chance to play somewhere,” said Lebo. “Hopefully we can get a home game so we can play in front of our fans again.”

The program already got some news in which it can take pride. On Monday, Kemp was named first-team All-Conference USA and, for the second year in a row, Paul was named second-team All-Conference USA.

Kemp's selection was the first time in school history the Pirates have placed one of their own on the top unit.

The pot of gold, though, is that ticket to the big dance.

Coach Lebo calls it a pot of gold. What better time to get that gold than on St. Patrick’s Day weekend!

Best of luck to the ladies and the men in their quest for gold in Tulsa.


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03/12/2013 03:16 AM


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