Griffin's Miracle Shot Lifts Bucknell Past Navy in Triple Overtime, 87-86
March 5, 2008
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - In one of the most improbable finishes in Bucknell basketball annals, senior guard John Griffin banked in a 40-foot miracle at the final buzzer, lifting the seventh-seeded Bison to an incredible 87-86 triple-overtime victory over No. 2 Navy in the Patriot League Tournament quarterfinals Wednesday night at Alumni Hall.
The Bison, who trailed by 17 points with 15:42 to play in regulation before staging a furious rally, advance to the Patriot League semifinals for the 15th time in 18 years and will face Colgate on Sunday at 2 p.m. in Hamilton, N.Y.
Griffin's game-winning shot was the last in a flurry of clutch plays from both teams in the final seconds. Only a minute earlier Griffin hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key that tied the game at 81. Chris Harris answered with his own 3-pointer to put Navy ahead 84-81 with 58 seconds left, but Bison freshman G.W. Boon hit the shot of his life, a tying 3-pointer with 41 seconds left. Harris tried to win it with a three for Navy, but T.J. Topercer put back his miss with three seconds left to give Navy an 86-84 lead.
Justin Castleberry then inbounded to Griffin on the run, and Griffin juked around one defender before letting fly from just inside the "N" logo at center court. The ball hit the center of the box on the backboard and banked in, setting off a wild celebration from the Bucknell bench.
"I must have had some Guardian Angels looking down on me," said Griffin after the game. "It felt good leaving my hand. I am just so proud of the way every player on the team helped us battle back."
Griffin was but one of many heroes for Bucknell, perhaps none bigger than the three freshmen, all of whom played significant minutes in the overtime periods. Todd O'Brien finished with 12 points, six rebounds and four blocked shots, and it was his layup off a Griffin wraparound pass with 0:02 left in regulation that kept the Bison alive. In fact, O'Brien pocketed the final five points of regulation after Bucknell trailed 59-54 with just 1:36 left.
Boon had seven points, including the big three in the final minute, four rebounds and four assists. Freshman point guard Darryl Shazier played 41 minutes and had nine points, four steals, and the assist on Boon's late trey. All told, the Bison bench outscored Navy's 33-7.
"I am proud of the way our guys battled tonight," said head coach Pat Flannery. "They just stayed after it. The bench was a big factor tonight in what was truly a team win."
For Navy, the loss came despite a career-high 37 points from Patriot League Player of the Year Greg Sprink, although Sprink fouled out in the final minute of the second overtime period. Harris added 17 points and eight assists for the Midshipmen (16-14), who went 9-5 in the Patriot League during the regular season and earned the No. 2 seed for the tournament.
Sprink had five 3-pointers and a 3-point play en route to 24 first-half points, matching Bucknell's team total. The Bison scored the final seven points of the half to pull within 34-24 after trailing by as many as 17 points.
The lead was still 17 at 45-28 after Romeo Garcia scored eight straight points early in the second half, but the Bison clamped down on defense just as its offense came alive.
Patrick Behan hit three 16-foot jumpers to ignite a 17-1 run over a seven-minute span. Behan's third bucket brought the deficit to a manageable 45-37, then after Sprink could only make 1 of 3 free throws after being fouled on a 3-point attempt, Boon hit a trey, O'Brien had a put back and a free throw to make it 46-43.
Shazier capped the run with two free throws to make it 46-45 with 8:17 left, but the Bison missed two potential go-ahead shots before Sprink ended Navy's eight-minute scoring drought with a layup.
Bucknell finally tied it at 50 on Darren Mastropaolo's layup with 5:57 left, but things seemed desperate again for Bucknell when Sprink made a short fadeaway jumper with 2:32 left to put Navy back up by six at 58-52. Stephen Tyree made two free throws with 2:06 left, then Sprink made 1 of 2 from the line. O'Brien was fouled on the second miss and also made 1 of 2.
Bucknell got its first big stop when Topercer missed a 3-pointer at the end of the shot clock, and O'Brien finished a Griffin feed with a dunk with 48 seconds left to make it 59-57. O'Brien then blocked Sprink's shot at the other end, and on the final possession Griffin circled around to the baseline on the right side and dished a pass to O'Brien for the finish with two seconds left.
Navy led by as many as three in the first overtime, but the Bison tied it on Tyree's whirling layup with 1:50 left and Castleberry's free throw with 51.5 seconds to play. O'Brien and Castleberry both had chances to win it in the final five seconds, but neither could connect.
In overtime No. 2, the lead changed hands five times, and the Bison were looking good when Griffin went to the line with a 74-72 lead and 21 seconds to play. But the career 80-percent free-throw shooter made only 1 of 2, leaving the door open for Kina to hit a clutch 3-pointer with 16 seconds left. Shazier was stripped in the lane on Bucknell's final possession, and for the first time in league history, a tournament game required a third overtime.
Bucknell, now 3-0 in overtime this season, last played a triple-overtime game on Dec. 10, 1970 at Lehigh (a 73-71 loss).
This was just one of several close finishes in Patriot League Tournament play on Wednesday. Fifth-seeded Army defeated Lehigh in overtime 64-61 in Bethlehem, Pa. Top-seeded American clipped Holy Cross 62-60, and No. 3 Colgate edged Lafayette 76-74.
Griffin, a First Team All-Patriot League selection, finished with 21 points for the Bison (12-18), who became the fifth No. 7 seed in league history to win in the first round. O'Brien and Castleberry added 12 each, while Mastropaolo had 10 points and six rebounds. Bucknell outrebounded Navy 48-47 and shot better than 50 percent in the second half and overtimes after shooting only 32 percent in the first half.
Navy shot 35.5 percent overall and attempted 40 3-pointers in the game, making 13.