Bobcats rally, but come up short at Sacred Heart
By Michael T. Lyle, Jr.
January 26, 2008
FAIRFIELD — It had all the makings of a championship contest. A record 2,012 fans in attendance at Sacred Heart’s William H. Pitt Center, a battle for first-place in the Northeast Conference, and a chance to show the rest of the league that they are a force to be reckoned with.
Indeed, Quinnipiac’s battle with the Pioneers on Saturday afternoon was filled with all sorts of drama and emotion, and they lived up to the hype. Unfortunately for DeMario Anderson and the rest of his Bobcat teammates, this defeat will stun for a while.
DeMario had a double-double with 30 points and 11 rebounds, but missed what would have been the game-winning tip-in off an inbounds pass from Brian Geffen at the final horn, giving Sacred Heart a nail-biting 75-74 win and snapping Quinnipiac’s four-game win streak.
“I think that the team that played better won the game,” said Bobcats head coach Tom Moore. “We played with some emotion in the second half, but we had one guy play great and not everyone else played as well as they had been playing.”
Justin Rutty was the only other Quinnipiac player to score in double figures with 12 points, but a staggering Sacred Heart defense held the Bobcats in check for most of the evening. The Pioneers limited Quinnipiac (10-9, 6-2 NEC) to tying a season-low with six assists and forced the Bobcats into 14 turnovers. The hosts also made 22-of 32 free throws and shot 50 percent from the field in the final period — stats that Moore say will not get the job done on both sides of the ball.
“You can’t allow that kind of field-goal defense in the second half and expect to win — especially on the road,” he said.
Sacred Heart sealed the win by scoring their final 10 points from the free-throw line, with Drew Shubik, who led the Pioneers with 20 points, converting on five of them down the stretch.
“That’s what I praticed ever since I was a little kid,” said Shubik. “After the late miss, I just smiled. You can’t get frustrated at that point because we still had a game to win.”
After DeMario sank a pair from the line to give the Bobcats a short-lived 74-73 lead, Shubik knocked down two more to give the Pioneers the one-point advantage with 25.4 left.
After both teams traded timeouts with 1.6 on the clock, the Bobcats drew up a play for DeMario. On a successful inbounds pass from Geffen, the senior captain raced around a swarm of Pioneer defenders and leaped towards the rim for a potential follow-tip, but he drew some contact and missed the net, sending the capacity-crowd and the Pioneers into a frenzy as Sacred Heart (11-10, 8-2 NEC) moved into sole possession of first place in the league.
“We had a [heck] of a game,” said Pioneers head coach Dave Bike. “I thought both teams played well. We were just fortunate enough to come out on top.”
The Bobcats came out strong in the first half, led by DeMario and James Feldeine, whose early scoring gave the visitors a 13-10 lead at the 12:20 mark. The game stayed close for seven more minutes, with neither team holding a lead bigger than two points. Sacred Heart then blew it open with an 8-0 run, culminating with a Ryon Howard bucket that made it 27-19 late in the period.
Sacred Heart kept the pressure on Quinnipiac in the second half, turning at 39-26 halftime lead into a 45-35 advantage following a Howard tip-in with under 17 minutes to go. But DeMario and Justin Rutty helped the Bobcats battle back. A bucket and three free-throws by DeMario cut the Pioneers lead to 55-51 before a Rutty runner in the lane, followed by a tip-in by Karl Anderson gave QU the lead at 59-57, with 6:23 to play. A three-pointer by the captain stretched the advantage to 66-60 around the four minute mark before the combination of Shubik and Chauncey Hardy got Sacred Heart back in it.
DeMario’s usual play allowed Quinnipiac to stay within striking distance, but his near heroics came up a tad short at the end.
“That’s what I’m supposed to do as a captain and senior”, said DeMario of his strong performance. “But the better team came out with the win, and we have to learn from this.”
Moore was also quick to defend his star-guard’s ability, saying that for him not to be named the “Conference Player-of-The Year” would be “criminal.”
“I wouldn’t send in a ballot, I’d send a video from this game to (the league office),” he said with a smile.
As far as this being a preview of the conference tournament championship, the possibility exists giving the standings in a now competitive Northeast Conference. Moore insists his team still has a lot to prove, but would be elated should he lead the Bobcats to that point come mid-March.
“That would be great,” he said. “The potential is there, but we still have a long ways to go before we can start thinking that way.”
NOTES: Quinnipiac played this one without forward Louis Brookins, who sat out with a back injury. Moore said he’s listed as day-to-day….As the Bobcats continue to get better, the fans continue to fill the seats. Combining last week’s contest at TD Banknorth Sports Center against Long Island, Quinnipiac has now played in front of over 3,000 spectators. They nearly cracked the 1,800 mark in their win over the Blackbirds.