Seahawks knock off Pirates in rivalry rematch

Toews: “When your confidence starts to roll, things start to click.”


Noah Powers/The Seahawk

Jeantal Cylla (2) attempts a free throw during UNCW’s matchup against East Carolina on Nov. 27, 2018.

Brandon Sans, Sports Editor

UNC Wilmington men’s basketball team renewed its in-state rivalry with East Carolina on Tuesday night in Trask Coliseum.

The Seahawks avenged last year’s overtime loss to the Pirates in coach C.B. McGrath’s first season with a 95-86 victory.

Strength in numbers

Contributions were noticed up and down the Seahawk box score with five players having double-digit points and four players had at least five rebounds.

It was clear from tip-off that the Pirates (4-4) game plan revolved around limiting the damage senior forward Devontae Cacok could inflict. That allowed frontcourt mate Jeantal Cylla (20 points, eight rebounds) to further prove he can be an asset as his continues to shake off the rust of sitting out a year due to transfer rules.

“[Cylla] is getting used to playing again,” said McGrath. “Every shot he took tonight was a good shot. I do like him running the court more and looking like he has his legs because that’s going to help us in the end.”

Guards Jaylen Fornes (3-for-4 from three-point range) and Ty Taylor (4-from-7 from the field) combined for 27 points off the bench. Both were removed from the starting lineup over the weekend in Asheville but came up big off the bench along with graduate forward Shawn O’Connell who continued his effective rebounding (six boards) when Cacok needed rest.

O Say can you play four games in five days

Tuesday’s game against the Pirates marked the end of a four-games in five-days stretch for the Seahawks (4-4) that ended with their first rise to a .500 record in over a year. After three straight games, a bus ride to and from Asheville, practice on Monday and classes, no one would have blamed UNCW if it lacked energy against East Carolina.

“I’m proud of their effort,” said McGrath. “We took [East Carolina] out of what they wanted to do.”

If it needed motivation before the game, UNCW found it during the singing of the National Anthem.

“Whoever finds our National Anthem singers does an unbelievable job,” said McGrath. “I want my team to play as good as those people sing.”

The best combo in Wilmington

First-year Seahawks Ty Gadsden and Kai Toews further teased the potential UNCW possesses for this year and beyond with their performances against the Pirates.

Toews (16 points, 10 assists) registered his second-consecutive double-double while Gadsden contributed 15 points and shot 3-for-5 from range. Though it needs reminding that Toews is still a freshman, the vision and court awareness he’s shown this early in his career make him a player to watch as UNCW inches closer to Colonial Athletic Association play.

“When your confidence starts to roll, things start to click,” said Toews. “I’m just becoming more comfortable finding where I can get shots and using my strengths.”

The Seahawks return on Saturday night to renew another in-state battle with Davidson before it begins a four-game road trip with a visit to North Carolina next Wednesday.