Unless the men’s basketball team receives an unlikely at-large bid to the NCAA tournament on Monday, its season ended with an incredible and controversial 71-66 triple overtime loss to Trinity (15-10 overall, 5-5 NESCAC) in the NESCAC quarterfinals last Saturday. It was the longest game ever in NESCAC championship history.
The match-up was much more action-packed than the regular season game against Trinity, which Bowdoin won 46-39.
Saturday’s game seemed like it was going to follow a similar script when the Bantams took a 25-19 lead into halftime. But, while the Polar Bears continued to struggle in the opening minutes of the second half, the scoring picked up for Trinity as they took a 14-point lead with just over 14 minutes to play.
With help from John Swords ’15—who was in early foul trouble—Lucas Hausman ’16, and Bryan Hurley ’15, the team went on a 19-3 run to take their first lead since the opening minutes of the game. The teams went back and forth for the final few possessions when, with a 52-50 lead, Trinity missed a free throw and the Polar Bears threw a quick outlet to Hausman, who elected to push the ball up the court rather than set up the offense. Hausman tied the game with a lay-up to send the teams into their first overtime period.
Madlinger opened up the second overtime period with another three, but several attempted threes early in the shot clock allowed Trinity to go up by three with under 10 seconds remaining. Then, on what was potentially the Polar Bears’ last possession of the season, Hurley brought the ball up the court, dumped it off to Hausman who, off a poor rotation by Trinity, was able to get the ball back to Hurley just in time for him to launch a buzzer-beating three to force a third overtime.
“In the huddle [before the play] I was thinking ‘Crap, we kind of screwed ourselves with this situation,’” said Hurley of the timeout before his buzzer beater. “I thought the shot was good [coming off my hands] but the guy on me said he got a piece of it so I wasn’t sure if he actually tipped it and it was going to be short. But when it went in I was like ‘We have to win this game—this is our game.’”
But, after getting off to a quick lead in that third overtime, it seemed like the game would again be extended at least another five minutes. Down by two with half a minute remaining, a Swords lay up came out of the basket on what looked like an uncalled goaltending violation by Trinity.
“I found out about that later. I just thought I missed,” said Swords. “I don’t know whether or not certain events that transpired were malicious but I wouldn’t put that on [Trinity’s Papadeas] because he is a good guy.”
“If they don’t call it, they don’t call it,” said Head Coach Tim Gilbride. “There’s no way you can go back and say, ‘Hey, let me send the film to you.’ I mean the kid does stick his hand in through the net, not much question that he did that. But that’s like any situation. If they don’t make the call they don’t make the call.”
Bowdoin was forced to foul immediately after the controversial missed lay-up and the Bantams were able to seal the victory from the free throw line.
After starting off the season on a record 12-game win streak and having been ranked in the top 20 nationally, the team faltered late in the season, ending the season 2-4. But none of those losses were decided by more than four points.
“It’s a tribute to the guys on our team and a tribute to our seniors,” said Gilbride. “Matt Mathias, Andrew Madlinger and Grant White ’14 were unbelievable. They really got everybody on board with everything.”
“I really pretty deeply enjoyed this season, more so than I ever have enjoyed a sports season,” added Swords. “Never felt more like I was on a team than with these guys.”
There’s still hope that the team could make the NCAA tournament when the bracket is announced Monday. Because of the abrupt end to their season, the Polar Bears need other D-III conference favorites to win their respective tournaments. If a potentially less-deserving team steals one of those trophies, it would force one of the prospective conference winners into one of the coveted at-large bids that Bowdoin is hoping for.
“Now we’re just waiting to see what our status is,” said Gilbride. “I think we’re qualified and do I think we’ve had a good enough year, yes, but how it shakes out? Who knows.”