Three-pointers dominated much of the action, but it was plays at the rim and the ability to get to the free throw line that ultimately allowed Lincoln Trail College's men's basketball team to pull out a win Wednesday night (Nov. 28).
The Statesmen rallied from a 12-point second half deficit and outlasted Lewis & Clark College, 111-108, in a double-overtime thriller.
"That game had everything," LTC head coach Luke Stuckey said. "The people got their money's worth tonight."
Both teams came out firing from the start, as they each hit a three-pointer for their first points of the game in the first 25 seconds. However, Lewis & Clark's next three baskets were also three-pointers, which set the tone for the night.
Consecutive layups by Jaylon Holmes gave LTC their first lead at 7-6, but Lewis & Clark hit a three-pointer to retake the lead, only for Justin Williams to hit a three to give LTC a 10-9 lead. Another Lewis & Clark three started a 9-0 run for the Trailblazers to make the score 18-10 with 12:07 left in the first half.
The Statesmen would get to within three points on a couple of occasions, but Lewis & Clark pushed the margin as high as eight and still had a seven point lead, 34-27, with 5:11 remaining. The two teams would combine to hit three-pointers on the next seven possessions, with LTC hitting four, allowing them to close the gap to 43-39 with 1:33 remaining.
As time was winding down in the first half, Alex Heath drove to the basket and hit a layup with 2.7 seconds left to pull LTC to within 43-41, but Lewis & Clark's De'Laney Ortiz threw in a 70-foot shot at the buzzer to give the Trailblazers a 46-41 lead at halftime.
Lewis & Clark carried that momentum into the second half, as they hit two more three-pointers in the first two minutes to extend their advantage to 52-42 and eventually pushed the margin to 63-51 with another three-pointer at the 13:28 mark. Lincoln Trail would begin to chip away, eventually tying the game at 72-72 on a three-pointer by Justin Williams with 6:44 remaining. Alex Heath then gave LTC a 75-72 lead with a pull-up three from the top of the key at the 5:40 mark, but Lewis & Clark responded with an 8-2 run to take an 80-77 edge with 3:54 left.
After the teams traded free throws, Lamar Lillard buried a three-pointer with three minutes to play, giving LTC an 82-81 lead. A free throw and a three-pointer put Lewis & Clark back on top, 85-82, with 2:30 remaining, then after the teams each hit a pair of free throws, Dante Combs knocked down a three with 35.3 seconds left to tie the game at 87-87.
Lewis & Clark would miss a three-pointer on the ensuing possession and LTC rebounded and called time-out with 13 seconds left to draw up a final play. Lillard got the ball in the corner with time winding down, but his three-point attempt was off the mark and the game went to overtime.
In the first extra session, the teams went back and forth the entire period, but LTC needed a driving layup from Williams to tie the game at 96-96 with 19.1 seconds left. Combs then made a steal at halfcourt and finished it off with a one-handed dunk to give LTC a 98-96 lead with 9.6 seconds remaining. However, Ortiz would drive in for a layup with two seconds left to tie the game once again. A half-court shot from Holmes was well short and the game would head to a second overtime.
The teams would continue to trade baskets early in the second extra session, but a putback by Walker Sandschafer - who was fouled on the play and converted the free throw - gave LTC a 105-102 lead with 1:40 to play. A Lewis & Clark basket trimmed the LTC lead to one, then the teams traded free throws to make the score 107-106 with 1:05 remaining. Justin Williams hit a free throw with 40.7 seconds left, but Lewis & Clark's Dawson Berry tied the game at 108-108 with a pair of free throws with 28.9 seconds left.
Lincoln Trail was looking to hold for the final shot, but Holmes drove to the basket, scored and was fouled with 3.2 seconds remaining. He would hit the free throw to make the score 111-108, then Combs made a steal after Lewis & Clark fumbled the inbounds pass and the Statesmen held on for the win.
"This was the first time where in the last two minutes of the game we had to figure out a way to win and our guys did it," Stuckey said. "It doesn't matter how you win, you just have to win and our guys made the plays when we needed them."
For the game, each team hit 18 three-pointers, with Lewis & Clark making 18-41 attempts (44 percent) and Lincoln Trail hitting 18-47 attempts (38 percent). There were also a ton of fouls and free throw attempts, with Lewis & Clark going 22-26 at the free throw line (85 percent) and LTC hitting 27-38 foul shots (71 percent).
The ability to get to the line in the second half and the overtime periods was the difference in the game for the Statesmen, Stuckey believes.
"We knew this would be a tough matchup with their style of play and their ability to shoot the ball," Stuckey said. "We shot it well too, but we didn't have any rhythm. We were fortunate to make some tough shots and were living on the edge. We talked at halftime and knew we couldn't survive playing the way we were playing. We needed to attack the basket and we did a good job of that in the second half and overtimes."
Balance has been a theme for the Statesmen all season and was again Wednesday with six players in double figures. Justin Williams led LTC with 21 points, six rebound, six assists and five steals, while Combs posted 17 points, six rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots. Lawrence Williams contributed 17 points, four rebounds, one steal and one assist, Lillard netted 15 points, five rebounds and one steal, Holmes collected 12 points and 10 rebounds, Heath totaled 11 points, seven assists, two rebounds and one steal, Casius Bell Jr. recorded nine points and one rebound, Sandschafer registered three points, four rebounds and one assist, Daniel Hurst added three points, three rebounds, two blocked shots and one steal and J.T. Counts had three points and two rebounds.
"We had a lot of guys step up and make plays," Stuckey said. "Jaylon obviously had the big play at the end, but Walker's offensive rebound putback was huge. J Will getting to the rim and finishing was big for us and Dante made some big plays down the stretch."
Ortiz led Lewis & Clark with 25 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and one steal, while Jehu Lafeuille totaled 23 points, 11 rebounds and four blocked shots, Berry posted 15 points, seven rebounds, five assists and one steal and Jalen Morgan contributed 14 points, seven rebounds, one steal and one assist.