Saturday, January 13, 2007

Doody Calls: In the end, it was the same old story


This one hurts. It really, really hurts, because this time, unlike the other two MAAC games in which Fairfield blew a late second half lead, this time the lead was convincing.

And unlike those other games, in this one, the Stags had bounced back every time their opponent made a run.

In this one, the Stags had seven leads of seven or more points. In this one, they scored first, had a six-point lead at half time and had an 11 – yeah that’s right, 11! – point lead with 7:14 left.

In this one, after they let the Broncs climb back into the game with a 7-0 run to close the gap to 55-51 with 6:06 left, the Stags quickly scored the game’s next five points, taking a 60-51 lead with 4:53 left.

At that point, it was impossible not to think that this time, there would be a different outcome.

This time, everyone in the building was sure, there would be a happy outcome.

But in the end this one was just like all the others: the Stags out-played their opponent for 35 minutes and then crumbled down the stretch.

Bob Heussler, my partner tonight on the Stags’ radio broadcast, said it perfectly: down the stretch, this team doesn’t play to win – it plays not to lose.

And when you play not to lose, guess what happens.

You lose.

The Stags, as young teams often do, lost because they made a couple of bone-headed plays down the stretch.

None of them were more costly or more bone-headed than when Jonathan Han tried to run the baseline on an inbounds play after the ball had been knocked out of bounds – thus, when a basket had not just been scored and when players are not allowed to run the baseline – and turned it over.

“Play of the game,” Ed Cooley said after the game.

At that point, the Stags led 62-61 with 1:27 left in the game.

A basket would have given the Stags some breathing room, but instead, Han fouled Rider’s Terrance Mouton, who hit one out of two free throws to tie the game at 62.

On the ensuing play, Han got himself to the line, which was where the irony started.

On a night when the Stags made their first 11 free throws and finished a season-best 17-for-19, Han missed the first of two, giving the Stags a one point lead instead of a two point lead.

Next up on the irony menu: the Stags, who absolutely dominated the boards all day (they out-rebounded the Broncs 34-23), lost because they couldn’t get a rebound in the game’s final possession.

The Broncs missed on two clean looks at the basket, but both times, Jason Thompson – who, ironically, was held in check by the Stags most of the game but came up big at the end – grabbed a rebound.

Finally, Joel Green got to the free throw line and, with the announced crowd of 2,462 howling in his ears, he drained two free throws to put the Broncs up 64-63.

The Stags needed a miracle with 1.9 seconds left, but when Michael Van Schaick’s last-ditch heave from the half court line fell far short, the final buzzer sounded and the Stags had lost their fifth game in a row.

In the end, despite all the things they did right for 35 minutes, it was the same old disappointing story.

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