Four Manhattan seniors played their final game in Draddy Gymnasium last Sunday night.
And what is likely a perfect goodbye to players like Rich Williams, Zavier Turner, Zane Waterman and Calvin Crawford, the Jaspers forced Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference foe Quinnipiac into double-overtime before ending the game in victorious fashion.
Neither team was able to gain comfortable leads throughout the contest with Manhattan’s largest lead at six points while Quinnipiac could only gain a five-point advantage, at most. But after forcing an additional 10 minutes to their Draddy finale, the Jaspers went out in style with a 92-86 double-overtime victory over the Bobcats.
That was thanks to a solid second half by Turner and Williams, who had 31 and 23 points, respectively.
Turner tied the game at 65 with 4.1 seconds remaining in regulation, connecting on a heavily contested drive to the basket to force the first overtime. Williams then sent the game into a second extra session when he delivered a game-tying three-pointer from the corner with 6.1 seconds left, forcing the second extra session.
“It was about being in that position before and keeping our poise as an organization,” Williams said. “Coach (Steve Masiello) drew up a great play and that’s what happened.”
The victory was finally clinched when Turner, who scored all 31 of his points after halftime, decided to take matters into his own hands, hitting a clutch three-pointer to put the Jaspers up by two. Williams then went 2-for-2 at the foul line in the final seconds, sealing the win.
“We put in a lot of work in this gym,” Turner said. “I was thinking about every one (of my teammates) like I was letting them down. I put my thoughts together, I (was thinking) it was time to put everything on the line.”
As the game’s intensity heightened, Masiello believed in his team and his seniors.
“These guys are doing a lot of little things that just don’t show up, and I think we’re getting better,” Masiello said. “Our efficiency has gone up, credit to these players. They listen and they’re coachable.”
Masiello’s admiration for his team’s work ethic soared after the win.
“I firmly believe this game was won in November (and) December, just being through tough situations,” the coach said. “You don’t win a game like this without going through some mental toughness, you got to be able to reflect back on some things. That’s why I love these guys. If there’s life in them, they have a chance.”
Defense is where the Jaspers struggled most, however.
“We just had a couple of (defensive) patches and lapses that we have to clean up,” Masiello said. “I think we’re playing good basketball. In the end, it’s always going to come down to defense for us.”
Being Senior Night, this win was particularly satisfying.
“Between the high emotion, it being the last game, the ceremony and everything, we had to get the jitters out,” Crawford said. “After we shook all of the emotions, got the jitters out, we started playing. You saw the finished product.”
The victory gives the Jaspers the No. 5 seed in the MAAC tournament, which gets underway March 1 in Albany. The Jaspers will take on back-to-back conference tournament champion Iona in their opening game Saturday night at 9:30. Iona defeated Manhattan twice during the regular season.
“They’re the defending champions, they’re back-to-back champions,” Masiello said.
“They’re the champions until someone dethrones them.”
As far as Turner see’s it, the Jaspers should have smooth sailing.
“Play together and I think we’ll be fine,” Turner said. “This group of guys that I’m playing with right now, they’re phenomenal players. If we go out like we did today, we won’t have anything to worry about.”