Auburn, ME – It's pretty hard to play a perfect basketball game. To compete in the Yankee Conference tournament, especially with the talented teams we have now in the league, a team must play pretty close to perfect to come out on top. Number four seed CM didn't play perfect Saturday but played about as good has a team could- but at the end dropped a 83-81 game against the number one seed, New Hampshire Technical Institute.
It took NHTI's Deric Jacksons fall away 28 foot jump shot with two Mustangs draped all over him with 3 seconds on the clock to win the game for the Lynx.
NHTI came out of the gate playing and executing like a number one seed. CM started in a 1-2-2 half-court trap, which worked in creating some turnovers, but backfired when the Lynx's Sam Doissaint hit for seven threes to give the Lynx a twelve-point lead going into halftime. The Mustangs played hard the first half, outrebounded the bigger visitors, but couldn't keep up offensively. The Lynx took a 49-37 lead into the half.
Halftime adjustments included the Mustangs changing to man, and focusing on stopping Doissaint. According to Coach Gonyea, "we went to long with the zone in the first half, but if you take out the hot shooting by Doissaint, we contained them pretty good and forced them to play at our tempo. We just needed to hit a few more shots ourselves. I was very confident at halftime we would be back in the game in the second half."
CM went on a 14-4 run beginning with the second half's-first possession to get back into the game. Leading the comeback was Josh Chery, who played his best game of the season, hitting for 24 points on a 12-17 shooting performance and ripped down 11 rebounds. Sharpshooter Elijah Barbour was back to old Elijah knocking down three's and rebounding as well. As the second half progressed, and as each team exchanged the lead a few times, the home crowd began to carry the Mustangs.
Freshman Mark McDonald, who has paid his dues sitting on the bench a lot in the first semester, but has come on strong the second semester, took the lead for the Mustangs picking up a loose ball and going the duration to lay up a beautiful reverse layup to put the Mustangs up 81-80 with fifteen seconds left in the contest. A NHTI time followed.
As NHTI Coach Paul Hogan was drawing up a last second play, Coach Gonyea decided to change up the Mustangs defense from man to man and play a 3-2 zone. The Lynx came out the timeout and it took five seconds to realize their play wasn't going to work due to the zone. They got the ball to Dorissaint at the free throw line with six seconds left. He airballed a shot that ended up in Jackson's hands. Jackson took two dribbles to the corner to get away from pressure, and at the buzzer released, what some would think was a prayer but for the first team all-conference Jackson was a normal shot. The entire gym watched as the ball tickled the twine to give the Lynx the win.
The agony of defeat…
Despite the loss, CM looked like the CM of old. All came to play today. Chery was supported by solid contributions from Barbour 24 points on a 9-20 shooting night, Rodney Theodore 11 points, and McDonald who chipped in with 15 points on a 6-13 shooting night. The Mustangs controlled the glass despite a serious size disadvantage. Along with Chery's 11 rebounds, Malik Farley added 4 rebounds, Cam Duncan had 5 rebounds, and Cody Tozier and Barbour chipped in with 4 rebounds.
Coach Gonyea summed up the game, "we played about as good as we can. Our top players came out to play tonight and I think we surprised not only the Lynx, but also our faithful who has seen us struggle a bit lately. This was the last game for many of our seniors. Our captain, Corey David was just coming off a leg injury and had limited energy and minutes. A fresh Corey could have made a difference. However, no excuses, NHTI played a great game, hit shots, ran in transition and hit the shot they needed. I am so proud of how this group conducted themselves. All laid it on the line, giving their best effort. Losing the likes of Corey, Josh, Cody, E, Rodney, Cam, Kenny, Malik, Kionno, Zay, Freddy, and Ricky will be a blow to the program. All will move on and contribute to other programs. For CM, life goes on and now the recruiting intensives. We have six commitments now and expect a few more soon. Nothing, nor nobody is bigger than the program. We expect success regardless of who is wearing the uniform."
"I was particularly pleased with the administrative/faculty/staff/alumni support we had at the game. I counted over 17 alum in the house, and 12 school personal. We are blessed as an institution to have generous support from all circles, Gonyea added."
The Mustangs end their season with a 17-10 record.