Pippa Passes, KY: There’s an old saying that goes, “The Third Times the Charm.” Fortunately, the Alice Lloyd Eagles adhered to that belief, as they needed three overtimes to pull out a thrilling 82-80 victory over the Rio Grande University Red Storm The quarter-final battle in the River States Conference Tournament was held Wednesday, February 23rd at the Perry Campus Center.
In the first 6:40 of the opening half, the Red Storm used the shooting of guard Miki Tadic to pull ahead 13-7. Fortunately for the Kentucky boys, they would roll out an 11-4 run of their own, and take their first lead of the night (18-17) with 8:37 showing, following a drive from sophomore forward Ben Soumahoro. The clubs basically traded buckets for the remainder of the half, but Eagle forward Will Philpot would score the final four points to give the Caney Creek boys a 30-29 advantage at intermission.
In the second half, the visiting Red Storm would go to their one-two punch of Tadic and Shiloah Blevins, who combined for 12 points to give their squad a boost. Then, leading 47-43 with 11:30 on the clock, Rio rolled out a big 11-2 blitz, which suddenly gave them a 58-45 cushion with just 8:12 left to play. At this point, the dejected Eagles fans felt the game was almost over.
Fortunately, Coach Scott Cornett’s squad refused to drop. In desperate need of a bucket, ALC turned to senior guard Noah Young, who made an old-fashioned three-point play to stop the bleeding. From there, Alice Lloyd tightened up on defense and began to chip away at the deficit. When junior forward Will Philpot drained a clutch three-point bomb at 3:12, the RGU lead had shrunk to two (60-58).
Finally, with just .36 ticks left, Eagle sophomore forward Damon Tobler scored on a strong inside move, and the game was knotted at 62-62. Rio would get two chances late but misfire on both, sending the contest into overtime.
In OT1, the squads would trade shots with Young sinking two big jumpers and Tobler getting a late tip-in for the Bluegrass boys. With the scoreboard reading 68-68, and .07 left, Red Storm guard Caleb Wallis would drive to the hoop looking for the game-winning shot. Fortunately, Tobler rejected the attempt, and the contest entered second overtime.
In OT2, a Soumahoro jumper gave the hosts a 76-72 advantage with 1:19 left to play, but a Wallis jumper and two free throws from Blevins tied things (76-76) with .17 remaining. On the final possession, ALC was unable to get a good look, and the matchup went to a third overtime.
In OT3, the weary combatants traded foul shots. Eventually, with .51 showing and the score knotted at 80-80, Young broke the tie with a single charity toss. Then after Philpot rebounded a Rio miss that could have given them the lead, Young was fouled once more at .27. He made 1-2, and now the Red Storm had the ball, trailing 82-80, with a chance to win.
On the final possession, ALC played solid defense and knocked the ball loose. Wallis grabbed the errant ball and fired a tough three to win, but it bounced off and was corralled by Philpot as time expired. Finally, the exhausting game was over, and the crowd exploded with joy.
For ALC (25-4), four players reached double figures. They were led on the night by Soumahoro, who finished with 25 points (10-16 FG). He added 5 boards. Young was just behind, as he tossed in 20 points, grabbed 8 boards, and dished off 5 assists.
Tobler sank some critical shots late before fouling out in OT2 and finished with a double-double of 16 points and 11 rebounds. Philpot registered his 13th double-double of the season as well by scoring 11 points and muscling down 12 rebounds. Junior guard Bryce Slone chipped in with 8 points.
Alice Lloyd connected on 42.7% (32-75) from the field, and 25% (4-16) from long range. From the charity line, they sank 63.6% (14-22). Additionally, ALC registered 49 rebounds, 3 steals, and 9 assists.
Rio (16-14) was led by Tadic and Blevins with 26 and 18 points respectively. Their club connected on 40% (32-80) from the field and 30.3% (10-33) from long range. From the foul line, they shot 40% (6-15). They also had 52 rebounds, 3 steals, and 19 assists.
With the hard-fought victory, the Eagles now advance to the semi-final round of the River States Conference Tournament on Saturday, February 26th. They will travel to Beckley, WV to battle the 24-4 West Virginia Tech University Golden Bears at 1:00 pm. The two squads met once this season (January 20th ) in Pippa Passes with the Eagles pulling out a huge 64-62 win.