A Second-Half Comeback and OT Victory

Men’s basketball wins in first conference road game
Jikari Johnson, junior, had a game-high 30 points in the Panthers overtime win against Roanoke College on Wednesday.
Jikari Johnson, junior, had a game-high 30 points in the Panthers’ overtime win against Roanoke College on Wednesday.
Staff Photo

There are a lot of cliches that sports writers use to describe the kind of thing that happened with the men’s basketball team in Roanoke Wednesday night against Roanoke College–cliches such as nail-biter, see-saw battle, come-from-behind victory, white-knuckle affair, tug-of-war, and fighting tooth-and-nail.

This was all of those.

In a contest where the score was tied 10 times and had five lead changes, the Panthers clawed their way back from a second-half, 11-point deficit to take the game into overtime.

From there, they secured an 84-82 victory with four seconds left in the extra period.

“It was our first away conference game, and we all knew going in just how big of a game it was,” Head Coach Patrick Corrigan said. “The guys who have been here remember last year.”

The Panthers lost by 48 points to the Maroons last season, and the returning players are still well aware of the history.

“In a lot of ways, that was a turning point for our program,” Corrigan said. “It could have gone either way. We could have just given up, or we could have said, ‘What are we going to do about this?’ And we started defending a lot better after that. And ultimately, that’s what gives you a chance to win consistently–being consistent defensively and being consistent rebounding.”

In Saturday’s effort, Corrigan said there was a bit of a pride issue but more so a respect for the team they were facing.

“I don’t think we went in with a ‘We’re going to get ’em back’ or anything like that,” he said. “I just said that to emphasize what happens if you aren’t  rebounding and playing good defense. They exposed us last year. There’s no running away from that. It’s right in your face.”

Fast forward a season, and the Panthers found themselves much more in the game than a year ago.

The score was tied at the 11:36 mark at 15-15 and again with 9:38 left in the half at 18.

The Panthers went up two when Jikari Johnson, junior, jammed home a fast-break assist from Zavier Measmer, junior, with 9:24 left in the half, but the Maroons tied it up again two seconds later and then went ahead 25-22 with 7:25 to go in the period.

Sterling Charles, sophomore, hit a jumper at the 4:49 mark to put the Panthers up 31-27, but from there until the end of the first half, Ferrum could only muster five points, while Roanoke surged with 15. The score at the end of the period was 42-36 Maroons.

The second half lead belonged to the Maroons, but the Panthers cut it to nine, and seven, and six, and even down to four with 15:00 left to go, but Roanoke ballooned it to 11 with 10:02 left in the matchup and led 63-52.

The Panthers had only been down in the second half once this season–and that was against Southern Virginia on Nov. 14. But the most they were down in that contest was five points, and that was with 14 minutes left in the game–ample time to erase the deficit.

Still, the Panthers cut it to single digits when Bryant Wall, junior, laid one in with 9:45 remaining, closing the lead to nine, 63-54.

Johnson drained a three less than 20 seconds later to cut it to six, but the Maroons added buckets and free throws to go back up 11 with 7:10 remaining in regulation.

Wall hit a jumper off a Tahli Oden, senior, assist at the 5:27 mark to bring the Panthers to within eight at 68-60, and Corrigan called a time out.

“I told the team, ‘Look, we’re only down eight’–just to make sure the we recognized that it’s right there,” he said.

Twenty seconds later, Johnson scorched the nets for another three and cut the Roanoke lead to five, 68-63, but the Maroons went back up seven with 4:44 left.

Johnson sliced the Roanoke lead to three at the 3:32 mark, but the Maroons answered back with two free throws to go up five with 3:04 to go.

The Panthers continued to chip away, and Johnson closed the gap tp 74-72 with two free throws and 51 ticks left.

Two Roanoke free-throws and a Charles foul shot later, the score was 76-73 Maroons, with the time down to 16 seconds.

But Charles drained a three and knotted the score at 76 with :13 remaining, and the Maroons missed a lay-up with :04 left. Alfredo Abel-Rivera, sophomore, snagged the rebound, sending the game into overtime.

Roanoke drew blood first in the extra period, going up 79-76 on a three pointer and then five on a jumper to make it 81-76.

Charles cut it to three with 3:50 left, and Wall made a lay-up with 2:02 remaining to cut the score to one, 81-80 Roanoke. Charles hit another jumper at the 1:23 mark to put the Panthers up one, 82-81.

The Maroons tied it up on a free throw, and from there, both teams missed three point attempts. But with four seconds remaining, Abel-Rivera scored the two biggest of his 15 points and put the Panthers up 84-82.

Wall then thwarted the final Maroon attempt by stealing the inbound pass as time ran out.

“Bryant was huge,” Corrigan said. “They only had him down for two blocks, but we counted five in the last 10 minutes. I think he was closer to seven or eight blocks. He was everywhere defensively and everywhere on the boards. He made some threes. He made some big shots. He really moves the ball well. He doesn’t always get credit for the assist–but maybe the pass before the assist. He’s kind of like the glue guy out there. He does everything.”

Wall finished the night with 16 points, and 10 rebounds.

Corrigan also praised Abel-Rivera’s performance, who had 17 rebounds to go along with his 15 points.

“Fredo was incredible,” Corrigan said. “Their big guy is one of the best, true, big guys in the league, and Fredo battled with him all night.”

For his part, Johnson finished with a game-high 30 points.

“Jikari was obviously unbelievable. He just elevates,” Corrigan said. “And a lot of those were really tough shots. I don’t think he sees anything but the rim. He was terrific and guarded their best scorer and held him to 13 points. So he did it on both sides.”

Johnson also finished 8-10 from the line, 6-8 from three-point range, and had seven rebounds.

Corrigan was also quick to mention Charles, who contributed 11 points and five rebounds–not to mention the three-pointer to extend the game.

“He’s been playing really well in practice, and the chances he’s gotten in the games he’s done well,” he said. “We were confident in him. We drew up a play for him, and he sent the game into overtime. He caught it in rhythm, and it was a tough shot. But we know he can make tough shots. And he hit two huge buckets in overtime.”

All in all, the Panthers had the lead for two minutes, while Roanoke held it for 38, but Ferrum ultimately held it at the right time–when time ran out.

“We never felt like it was out of reach, but we did feel like we were hanging on there,” Corrigan said. “When we were down 11–you can’t go much higher than that with the amount of time left. And when we cut it to three, that’s when believed we could win this.”

The win puts the Panthers at 6-0 overall and 2-0 in the ODAC. The next game will be against Eastern Mennonite tomorrow at 2 p.m. in Swartz Gym.


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