Last minute shot goes in LCSC's favor this time
GREAT FALLS, Mont. – After countless last-minute heartbreaks this season, the Lewis-Clark State College men’s basketball team had something to smile about in the final seconds for a change against the University of Great Falls on Friday. This time it was the Warriors who came back to force the opposing team to stammer, “I don’t believe it” in the final seconds of the game. LCSC won by a final score of 71-70.
Trailing by 15 at halftime, LC spent the majority of the second half just playing catch-up.
With a minute left, the Warriors were still playing catch-up, but this time the difference was only one point. The Argos started the final minute with possession of the ball, but lost it thanks to a block by David Johnson with about 30 seconds to go. The Warriors quickly worked the ball past the half-court line and called a timeout.
Coming out of the timeout, LCSC’s Donnie Lao took a shot from straight away beyond the 3-point line, but an Argo defender got a piece of it and the ball missed the rim, bounced off some players, and then out of bounds.
Facing defensive pressure, the Argos couldn’t connect on the in-bounds pass and the ball was deflected off of a UGF player and out of play.
The Warriors inbounded the ball into the hands of Lao who drove only to have the ball knocked out of bounds, with LC maintaining possession with about 15 seconds on the clock and the ball spotted on the baseline.
After a timeout by LC, Darin Stewart quickly lobbed the inbounds pass to a jumping Alex King. King at first looked as if he would stretch out to try a dunk, but instead he caught the ball, landed on the floor, and put it back up off the backboard to give the Warriors a 69-68 lead with 12 seconds to go.
Great Falls brought the ball back up the floor and into the hands of Melvin Williams, who had already made two 3-pointers on the day. Williams shot from behind the 3-point line with about seven seconds remaining and the ball clanked off the front of the rim to be rebounded by Johnson who was fouled immediately.
Johnson nailed both free throws to give LC a 71-68 lead with three seconds on the clock.
After a timeout, Great Falls completed a football-like in-bounds pass to the opposite end of the floor and immediately called another timeout.
Then with 2.2 seconds left, and a three-point lead, the Warriors decided to foul the Argos on the ensuing play to keep them from hitting a three. This sent Mark Celaya to the line, who hit the first of the single-bonus free throws. Then, perhaps trying to miss intentionally to give his teammates a chance for an offensive board and a tip-in, Celaya tossed up his second attempt hard off the backboard. The ball bounced back and hit the front of the rim, rolled around a little bit, and then fell through the cylinder.
LCSC picked up the ball and quickly inbounded to the corner to kill the final two seconds and win the game.
The win comes as a breath of fresh air for the Warriors who have lost three games this season by three points or less—all of which were because of shots made in the final minute.
The win also gives the Warriors some revenge for the 70-58 loss the Argos handed them at home earlier this year. LCSC is now 6-7 in the Frontier Conference and 16-10 overall, while UGF is 4-9 and 10-18.
Lewis-Clark State, which trailed by 21 at one point in the first half, shot just 34.5 percent from the field in the opening half, but made 63.6 percent in the second.
The Warriors made 4-of-8 attempts from the outside in the second half after hitting just 3-of-11 in the first, but an even bigger difference in the second half was on the defensive end. LCSC played man-to-man defense in the first half and surrendered 41 points without a steal. In the second, LCSC switched to a zone defense and came up with seven steals and held UGF to 29.
Stewart, a 6-foot-3 junior, scored a career-high 19 points to go with three assists and three steals. He was 3-for-5 from behind the 3-point line.
Johnson went a perfect 6-for-6 down the stretch at the foul line to reach 11 points in the game—all of which came in the second half. Shane Miller was the only other Warrior to score in double-digits as he also had 11.
Donte Roberts led LC in rebounds with eight, Johnson had six, and Lao had five to go with nine points and four assists.
Great Falls, which was 11-of-22 from the outside, was led by L.J. Jones who had 18 points and five rebounds. Celaya added 15 points and five boards and Marcel Towns had 12 points and four rebounds.
The Warriors will close out the regular season with a game against MSU-Northern on Saturday. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. pacific.