Trailing 70-68, point guard Prince Williams had what appeared to be a clear lane to the basket, but as he rose up for the equalizing dunk, Wilmington's star forward Cedrick Williams came across for the game-clinching block.
There were 10 lead changes and five ties on Sunday, but it was Cedrick Williams' game-best 17 points and three blocks, along with his team-best nine rebounds that steered the Seahawks (5-5) to their first road win of the year.
"It was designed, (we) tried to get to the rim, got there with speed, got right where we wanted to get and (Cedrick) Williams made just a great play. That was good offense, good defense (and) a great blocked shot at the end," said ECU coach Jeff Lebo.
Prince Williams was among the four Pirates (6-2) that scored in double-figures – each of which were guards – but the deciding factor on Sunday was Wilmington's domination in the paint. In the absence of its starting forward Marshall Guilmette, who missed his third straight game due to a right knee injury, ECU surrendered 48 points in the paint and were out-rebounded 39-33.
ECU's recipe for success through seven games has been shooting the ball well, particularly from three-point range, to make up for lack of size and experience at post positions. But outside of freshman Caleb White, the Pirates were 4-of-20 on 3's (20 percent). White tied a career-high in points (14) on 5-of-7 shooting – 4-of-5 from beyond the arc.
"I came into the game with a lot of confidence in it, but I was trying to hit open shots. We got guards that penetrate well so I was just trying to step in and hit shots," said White.
White fouled out of the game on a questionable call from official Jamie Luckie with ECU leading 60-58 at the 4:36 mark of the second half.
"I think (Wilmington's Shane Reybold) lost it along the baseline, we were both chasing it and somehow (Luckie) got a push out of it. I'm really not sure," White said of the foul.
Wilmington jumped out to an early lead and never let go of it throughout the entire first half. The Pirates never trailed by more than eight points – 13-5 – and came close on several opportunities to claiming their first lead.
ECU's lone source of offense for the bulk of the first half was shooting guard Paris Roberts-Campbell. The 6-3 junior scored 13 straight ECU points, culminating on a three-pointer that tied the game, 24-24, with 6:43 left.
"The guy that we could not stop was Paris Roberts-Campbell. He was driving it, making outside shots and he was just causing some trouble," said Wilmington coach Buzz Peterson.
Despite Roberts-Campbell's impactful first-half, he scored just two more points on 1-of-5 shooting in the final 20 minutes – closing with a team-best 15 points, while draining 5-of-15 from the floor.
The Pirates knotted the game up again, 31-31, in the half's waning seconds on White's first 3 of the night. White was left open again on his second triple that completed an 8-0 run and gave ECU its first lead, 43-41, at the 12:19 mark of the second half.
Wilmington responded to a loud, involved crowd by quickly regaining the lead and eventually building it up to 56-50 on a Cedrick Williams lay-in. Bottled up for the lions-share of the night, senior sharpshooter Akeem Richmond clawed the Pirates back in front.
Following two made-free throws, Richmond drained a go-ahead jumper from three-point distance that set-up White's fifth foul on the ensuing Seahawks possession. Richmond mustered 13 points – 10 of which were scored in the second half – on 29 percent shooting (4-of-14).
ECU's first chance at an equalizer in the game's final last 20 seconds materialized off Cedrick Williams' missed free throw. Back-up point guard Antonio Robinson looked towards Richmond beyond the arc, but the Seahawks applied a double-team that forced him to settle for two. Robinson's runner in the paint trimmed Wilmington's lead to 69-68 with 7 seconds left.
The Pirates sent junior forward Addison Spruill to the line and after draining his first attempt, the second try went in-and-out. And trailing by two without a timeout, Lebo yelled out the final play as Prince Williams raced up the floor and Cedrick Williams made the deciding block.
"If it would have been anybody else on our team, nobody else would have blocked it. It just so happened to be the right player at the right time," said Peterson.
Wilmington snapped ECU's eight-game winning streak at Minges Coliseum, but the Pirates will remain at home to face Division II Fayetteville State. Although, its slates to be a lesser opponent, Lebo thinks his team could face some problems on Tuesday night.
"Fayetville State is talented, athletic," said Lebo. "They are almost like a Division I team. They may be better than a couple Division I teams we've played already."
Tip-off time is set for 7 p.m. Lebo said there is no timetable on Guilmette's return from injury.