Men’s basketball overcomes Bates in triple overtime

Before a crowd of well over 1,000, Colby men’s basketball pulled out a dramatic win over Bates College in triple overtime on Saturday Feb. 22nd. The win over Bates advances Colby to the semi-finals of the NESCAC playoffs. Having faced Bates twice already this year and winning both games in regulation time (101-84 and 72-61), the Mules looked poised to take what most would think to be an easy victory. Playoffs, however, are always a different story, and the intensity brought to this game elevated both teams’ play to a near gridlock throughout the entire game. 

The energy from the fan section never once died down. Interestingly, there were competing styles of play. Colby favored the three-point shot, while Bates used their size to their advantage to try to bully Colby in the paint. Bates took the first lead of the game, but Colby quickly answered with a 7-0 run against the Bobcats. Despite Colby taking an early lead, the Bobcats hit hard down low to take the lead back from Colby. The Mules would not take the lead again for the rest of the half. Instead, the Bobcats showed some strong defensive play, with four steals and only four turnovers throughout the half. Colby struggled to keep up during the middle portion of the game, letting Bates run the score up to 32-18 with four minutes to play in the first half. Steals aside, the game was very even defensively, with Bates only grabbing two more rebounds (21) than Colby (19). The first half came down to Bates’ strong shooting percentage, knocking down 42.9% of their shots, while Colby hit just over a third of their shots at 34.4%. Despite a lack of offensive power during the middle section of play, the Mules were kept in the game by a strong first half performance from Will King `23, who went 4-10 from the field to put up 11 points for the Mules. Led by King, the Mules went on a truly impressive 12-4 run in the last five minutes of the first half to end the first 36-32, ensuring a close game moving forward. Riding the crucial scoring run into the second half let the Mules return to the court hungry for the win. 

Despite this, the Bobcats clearly took a minute in the locker room to center themselves after letting their large lead slip away just minutes before the end of the first half. The Bobcats maintained a 4-5 point lead over Colby for most of the second half before increasing their lead to 10 points with just nine minutes left at 58-48. At the nine minute mark of the second half, Colby had yet to regain their lead, and, with time running out, things were starting to look much more difficult. Where Colby really began to shine, despite some height difference, was from the Mules seven offensive rebounds (OREB) during the second half alone, beating Bates’ four OREBs. Being much more confident from three than the Bobcats, the Mules jacked up a total of 18 three-point attempts, dripping in four critical threes throughout the half. While 22% from three-point land is not the best, the Mules still managed to nearly double the Bobcats percentage of just 12.5%. Knowing Colby’s skill from deep, the Bobcats needed to adjust their game plan to put some more pressure on Colby’s three-point shots. However, Colby quickly adapted to Bates’ new defensive strategy and began to work them in the paint as well. Unprepared for the hard drives from the Mules, the Bobcats racked up a total of 12 fouls during play. This benefited the Mules, who kept their personal fouls to just eight in the second half. Colby entered the bonus for fouls with over five minutes left to play. This was crucial, as Colby was sent to the free throw line six times during the second half, shooting 50% for six free points for the Mules. As the Mules whittled away at the scoreline in the final five minutes, the crowd could feel the momentum shifting in Colby’s favor. A late foul in the second half against Colby gave Bates their final two points of the half, putting them up 68-65 with just 36 seconds left in regulation. The last 30 seconds had all fans on their feet as Colby worked the ball up the court. With just 24 seconds left, Alex Dorion `20 made an incredible three-point shot from beyond the arc to tie the game 68-68. As the bucket sank and Dorion tied the game, the crowd erupted with cheers. With time still left on the clock, Bates looked to senior Jeff Spellman `20 to hit a last second three, but he was unsuccessful. As the clock ran out, fans clad in blue roared in excitement, as free basketball was soon to begin.

With overtime starting 68-68, the Mules took the lead for the first time in more than 40 minutes after five quick points. The Mules continued to exchange points back and forth for the next few possessions, but Bates maintained the lead throughout the overtime. A late foul against Colby allowed Bates to take another lead with just 36 seconds left in the game. Again, the Mules needed a big bucket, and there wasn’t much time. A missed three from deep gave Bates possession again, with just 13 seconds left. This forced Colby to take another foul. Luckily, Bates missed both of their free throws, and a critical defensive rebound by Noah Tyson `22 gave Colby possession with almost no time on the clock. Moving the ball to Matt Hanna `23, the rushed up the court, blowing past every Bates defender to secure an easy layup with just seven seconds left in overtime, tying the game at 76-76.

As the game entered its second overtime, both teams began to feel the effects of a prolonged game. Bates took an early lead during the start of the second overtime, making a quick three points, while Colby fought hard to exchange buckets with Bates over the majority of play during second overtime. As the two Maine schools battled back and forth for the quarterfinals of playoffs, Bates continued to maintain their lead. Again, a late foul against Colby sent Bates to the free throw line, where they made both baskets. This put them  up 88-85 with just 18 seconds left. For yet a third time, Colby trailed with the final seconds running down. A missed three-point shot with 12 seconds left seemed to seal Colby’s fate in the game, but a key offensive rebound from Ty Williams `20 reignited the hopes of Colby’s fans. With six seconds left on the clock and down three points, King again splashed another three over the hands of the Bates defenders. With almost no time left on the clock, it became clear that this game would be heading into the rare third overtime.

With three game-tying buckets in the last minute of regulation, OT, and 2OT, Colby knew they could not keep playing catch up with Bates, and needed to put the Bobcats away for good. Tyson again dripped in a three to start off the third overtime, putting Colby up 91-88. Colby would not trail again throughout the game. The Mules played strong defense, taking good fouls when needed and locking down the Bobcats in the paint. Pairing the strong defense alongside the Mules lethal offense, Colby took clear charge in the final three minutes of play. The increase in intensity was apparent as Bates struggled to keep up, taking more fouls and sending Colby to the line. A few free throws and layups later, Colby was up 102-94 with just 14 seconds of play left: a sure sign of victory for the Mules. As the clock ran down, it was clear that fans would storm the court as soon as the game ended. Sure enough, as the buzzer went off, the blue-clad fans erupted into cheers and charged onto the court, celebrating the basketball team’s  hard work.

Despite what is  possibly one of the most dramatic finishes in program history, the season is not over for the Mules just yet. Colby will head down to Tufts University on Feb. 29 to take on the Amherst Mammoths. The Mules have only faced Amherst once this year, losing in 87-69. Tip off will be at 7p.m.

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