The NEC Beamed Coast To Coast On ESPNU Sunday…And Produced An Instant Classic

From the opening tip to game-winning bucket, this one was special.  And if you were watching the Oscars, well, you missed out on one of the best NEC-TV games ever.

Before a nationwide audience on ESPN (watch full game replay) local rivals and NEC contenders LIU Brooklyn and Wagner went toe-to-toe before a charged up, packed house at the Spiro Center.  The game had everything you can ask for: spectacular dunks and rejections, scintillating three-point shooting, some of the niftiest passes you will see, a furious comeback, and finally, a buzzer-beater shot.

Wagner used a swarming defensive effort to rally from a 13-point first half deficit and found itself with a 10-point lead with under two minutes remaining in the game.  But the two-time defending NEC champs had one last push.

“I won’t say I felt like we had a 10-point lead but to be honest I was extremely comfortable and confident feeling like we were going to win the game,” said Wagner head coach Bashir Mason.

Back-to-back three-pointers cut the lead to 88-84, and after a number of missed opportunities on both ends, LIU junior guard Jason Brickman (San Antonio, TX/Clark) banked in a trifecta to slice the lead to one point with 34 seconds left on the clock.  Wagner junior guard Latif Rivers (Elizabeth, NJ/Elizabeth (Avon Old Farms (CT)) and Brickman each hit a pair of free throws, then Rivers sank two more to put Wagner’s lead at 92-89 at the 21 second mark.  Brickman brought the ball up the court and calmly sank another three to even the game at 92 with just under 13 seconds to play, setting up Wagner’s decisive final possession. 

Rivers took time off the clock dribbling by midcourt, drove to his left and misfired on a runner off the top of the backboard, but junior guard Kenneth Ortiz (Newark, NK/Science Park (Southern Mississippi)) was right there for the putback with 0.8 seconds showing to give the Seahawks the 94-92 win.

It didn’t take long for Twitter to react.

Craig D’Amico ‏@CraigCD13

Add Wagner/LIU-Brooklyn to the Top 13 NEC Games of 2013 list!

Andrew Chiappazzi ‏@achiappazzi

I think my head just exploded. Tie at the Oscars, madness at LIU/Wagner. All in the same few seconds.

John Templon ‏@nybuckets

Brickman for 3!! This has been a fascinating basketball game. ESPNU getting everything it wanted from #NECMBB.

GiantsWFAN ‏@giantswfan

wild finish as #Wagner stops #LIU in men’s hoops tonight, 94-92…@NECSports rockin’ it!

Ron Ratner ‏@NECHoopsRon

I’ve worked here at @NECsports for 15 yrs & that was top-3 in gms we’ve televised. Two good tms going toe-to-toe on national TV. #NECPride

LISA CERMIGNANO ‏@CERMIGNANOL

Congrats to Coach Bashir and Wagner Men’s basketball with huge win over LIU! @BashirMason pic.twitter.com/v547xtKKlP

“I was just in the right place at the right time and I made the shot,” said Ortiz.

For Ortiz, this wasn’t the first time he’s played the role of hero at Wagner.  Last season, Ortiz hit an over-the-backboard-falling-out-of-bounds buzzer-beater to nip Santa Clara 64-62 in the championship of the Cable Car Classic.  He has hit a pair of game-winners this season and four over the course of his career.

“He has a knack,” said Mason.  “Kenny knows how to rebound, and he was in good position.  But in a nutshell, the bottom line is they are a very good team and we just outscored them at the finish.”

It was a frenetic finish for sure.

“I was thinking, ‘Ok, let’s get a stop with 13 seconds left,”’ said LIU Brooklyn’s Jamal Olasewere (Silver Spring, MD/Springbrook), who finished with 21 points and seven rebounds.  “I think some of our players got confused, they thought we were pressing.  I guess they didn’t know the time and score so it kind of got scattered.  I was hoping Latif would miss it, but Kenny did a good job of getting the rebound and scoring so credit to them.”

These two teams could potentially see each other again in the NEC Tournament, but to the players involved in yesterday’s clash, in a claustrophobic Spiro Center, with so much on the line, it may as well have been a playoff game.

“It sounded like a championship game,” said Olasewere.

Felt like one too.

February 25, 2013


 

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