New York State In-depth

Blue Collar U douses Heartfire, reaches TBT semifinals | Buffalo Sports

Blue Collar U got a taste of sweet revenge Friday and advanced to the semifinals of The Basketball Tournament in the process.

Nick Perkins scored 21 points and grabbed eight rebounds to lead the team of University at Buffalo basketball alums to a 74-66 victory over Team Heartfire in a TBT quarterfinal game at UD Arena in Dayton, Ohio.

The win improves BCU’s all-time record in this summer event to 8-1 and moves the team into the semifinals, where it bowed out last year. That opponent — Team 23 — is now doing business as Heartfire.

BCU will take on Red Scare, a 67-60 winner over Best Virginia, in Saturday’s second semifinal at 6 pm on ESPN as it looks to keep its dream of winning the $1 million prize alive.

It was a very tight game throughout. Neither team led by more than eight points at any point. Blue Collar U was clinging to a one-point lead after three quarters, 54-53.

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CJ Massinburg added 19 points for BCU, including a clutch 8-for-8 at the free-throw line.

Massinburg also played a game-high 30 minutes, 13 seconds. This would be about the time in the tournament for BCU to lean on the 2019 Mid-American Conference player of the year.

Wes Clark added 11 points and Jeremy Harris added 10.

BCU was 25-of-68 from the floor, including 9-of-27 from three-point range.

One of the keys to the game for Blue Collar U was their ability to score off Heartfire turnovers. The team had a 21-11 advantage in that department. BCU was also able to get out and run more often, outscoring Heartfire 14-4 on the fast break.

Tevin Mack led Heartfire with 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Eric Washington, Heartfire’s leading scorer at 16 points per game, finished with just 9 points on 4-of-11 shooting.

BCU led 21-20 at the end of the first quarter and the game was tied at the end of the half, 36-36.

Massinburg led the way with nine points in the first half, as Blue Collar U’s balanced scoring was on display once again. Massinburg, a proud new father, entered Friday’s game averaging 15.7 points per game — one of four players averaging in double figures.

Harris added eight points, while Clark and Perkins chipped in seven points apiece in the opening 18 minutes of play. Perkins also grabbed four boards.

Mack led Heartfire with 10 points in the first half.

BCU opened the tournament with a 91-64 rout of the NG Saints, before knocking out Friday Beers (78-75) and The Nerd Team (83-62) to win the Syracuse Regional.

Now they are back in the semifinals, a tested group that believes it can win the whole thing.

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