Monday, January 4, 2016

Manhattan eclipses Siena in triple OT thriller

Shane Richards led five Jaspers in double figures with 21 points as Manhattan outlasted Siena in triple overtime, prevailing 92-87 over Saints. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Fuhrmann via the Manhattan College Quadrangle)

RIVERDALE, NY -- During his tenure as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, Steve Mariucci once famously proclaimed during a regular season game, "is this fun, or what?"

Nearly two decades later, and in another sport, the quote from the now-current NFL Network studio analyst rang true at Draddy Gymnasium, where Manhattan (5-8, 2-2 MAAC) needed three overtimes to defeat Siena, but ultimately got the better of the Saints (9-6, 2-2 MAAC) in a contest that mid-major basketball aficionados will consider to be an instant classic.

"That was a lot of fun," Steve Masiello candidly stated. "Unfortunately, only one team could win, but Siena deserves a lot of credit. They came in and they fought us tooth and nail in a revenge game, for us, after they took it to us up there. I just thought it was two basketball teams that had great toughness, great composure."

Five Jaspers posted double-figure point totals, led by Shane Richards' 21. Rich Williams had another respectable outing off the bench with 19 points, while RaShawn Stores added 16 markers, two off his season high. Javion Ogunyemi's 26 points led all scorers, and the Saints' junior forward also contributed 11 rebounds.

Trailing throughout the first half despite remaining within earshot, as Siena only led 36-35 going into the intermission, Manhattan took its first lead of the night with 15:10 remaining in the second half as Richards fed Stores for a three-pointer in the left corner to put the Jaspers ahead by a 43-41 margin, helping fuel a 15-4 run that opened up a 52-45 advantage at the 11:55 mark in regulation.

Siena would respond in the waning moments of the second period, unleashing a 9-1 run to tie the score at 63 before a pair of Stores free throws shifted the lead back to Manhattan. On the ensuing trip down the floor, Brett Bisping (20 points, 11 rebounds) knotted the score again, making it 65-all with 2:09 to play at that juncture. Neither side got another basket for the remainder of regulation, with Stores missing two go-ahead three-point attempts in the final minute, including an open look from the top of the key at the buzzer.

The Saints would strike first in the first extra session, as an Ogunyemi layup gave Siena a 67-65 edge. Manhattan would score the next six points, however, taking a four-point lead after two Calvin Crawford (15 points) free throws. Siena would once again answer back, this time on a wide-open three from freshman Nico Clareth, (13 points) going in front by a 74-73 count with 42 seconds left in the period.

With Crawford at the line after a foul against Siena's Kenny Wormley, the sophomore missed his first attempt, but sank the second to tie the game at 74 apiece. Siena held for the last shot, but with his back to the basket, Bisping's circus layup attempt was unsuccessful at the horn, sending both sides to a second additional frame.

Siena scored the first three points in double overtime, but Manhattan evened the score again with 3:25 on the clock, doing so on a Richards trifecta from the left arc. It would remain 77-all for nearly two minutes, until two Clareth free throws tipped the scales in the Saints' favor. Their latest lead was short-lived, as Crawford's layup on the next Jasper possession made it 79 apiece. Manhattan got a stop on Siena's go-ahead attempt, but for the second time tonight, Stores came up empty at the buzzer, missing a runner in the lane.

The Jaspers grabbed the lead on a Williams layup 25 seconds into the third overtime, and never trailed in the final five minutes. A Richards three following a Bisping turnover made it 84-79, and Manhattan maintained their two-possession lead for the bulk of the period until a Ryan Oliver trey brought Siena within one, at 88-87, with 1:03 to go. The Saints would get no closer, as Richards scored the final four points of the evening to wrap up Manhattan's second straight win, and fourth in their last five contests as the Jaspers embark upon their annual trek to Western New York for the two-game swing against Canisius and Niagara, which begins Thursday against the Golden Griffins.

"We understand if we're 2-2 (in MAAC play), great," Masiello said, assessing the aspect of a momentum boost heading to Buffalo. "But if we're 0-4, it doesn't really matter. My players understand that, so to me, that is the most important thing. When you win, it makes life easier for everyone, but as long as we improve every day, we'll get it at the end. We always have, and we will continue to."

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