Concord’s Rob Reed banked in a desperation shot just ahead of the buzzer in double-overtime Saturday night to give the Mountain Lions a 92-90 upset of No. 1-ranked West Liberty in a Mountain East Conference Tournament semifinal.
Seger Bonifant’s driving layup with 25 seconds left had pulled the Hilltoppers (27-9) into a 90-90 deadlock and, with the shot clock off, the Mountain Lions (21-9) opted to play for the final shot.
Reed, who had been held scoreless in the two overtime periods after pouring in 32 points during regulation, lost possession of the ball along the left sideline with six seconds remaining.
West Liberty couldn’t come up with the ball as it rolled inside the 3-point arc and Reed was able to snatch it off the floor and toss it hurriedly toward the rim from 17 feet out. The desperation attempt slammed off the backboard and through the basket with just 0.4 seconds on the clock, touching off a wild celebration on the Concord bench.
The disappointing conclusion spoiled an impressive comeback for Coach Jim Crutchfield’s Hilltoppers, who had battled back from a 12-point deficit with less than 4 minutes left in regulation to send the game into overtime.
With West Liberty suffering through its worst shooting night of the season – the Black and Gold finished 30-for-87 (34 percent) from the floor and a dismal 12-of-44 (27 percent) from the 3-point arc – Terry Hopewell’s power post layup appeared to have put the game on ice, giving Concord a 73-61 lead with just under 4 minutes to play.
The Hilltoppers refused to fold, shutting the Mountain Lions out for the remainder of regulation and finding just enough offense to keep their hopes alive.
Mike Lamberti ignited the comeback with a 3-pointer from the top of the key and David Dennis Jr hit back-to-back bombs to make it a one-possession game heading down the stretch. Bonifant missed a 3-pointer with 25 seconds left but Zac Grossenbacher skied high to bat the rebound out to Lamberti, who sent the game into overtime with another clutch 3-pointer.
West Liberty had a chance to win in the first overtime period, getting two shots at the rim in the closing seconds only to see both of them roll off just ahead of the buzzer.
There were a combined 5 ties and 7 lead changes in the two extra periods with neither team ever leading by more than two points.
Bonifant played all 50 minutes for WLU, scoring 33 points while adding 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks and a steal. Devin Hoehn finished with 16 points while Dennis and Lamberti each charted double-doubles. Dennis had 14 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists while Lamberti checked in with 14 points, 11 boards and 3 steals. Grossenbacher was held to 7 points but yanked down a season-high 22 rebounds before fouling out in the first overtime period.
Reed finished with a game-high 34 points – including a 7-of-11 showing from the 3-point arc – while Hopewell had a big game with 16 points and 19 rebounds. Aaron Miller added 14 points and 9 rebounds while Michael Sanchez had a dozen points and 5 assists.
Concord advances to Sunday’s MEC Tournament championship game against the winner of Saturday’s late semifinal between Wheeling Jesuit and Notre Dame (Ohio).
West Liberty is expected to receive its seventh consecutive NCAA Division II Tournament bid Sunday night when the 2016 Atlantic Region Tournament field is announced.