The Rattlers walked away from Saturday’s game wiping sweat from their foreheads. But it wasn’t just because of the nail-biting 96-92 overtime win over Maryland-Eastern Shore.
Florida A&M University (9-9, 5-2) escaped with a victory over the Hawks (4-12, 1-5) in conditions that head coach Mike Gillespie called “incredible.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever been hotter or sweated more than I did tonight,” Gillespie said. “It’s a testament to both teams to play with such high energy for 45 minutes when it was sweltering in there.”
UMES’ barrage from behind the arc along with the post presence of Hawk forward Tim Parham, who had a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds, kept the game close. But a Joe Ballard floater in the lane kicked off a FAMU 13-4 run to tie the game at 56 with 11:56 remaining.
Rattler guard Tony Tate hit a short bank shot with 10 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 83. Brooks’ offensive foul on the following possession presented the Rattlers with a chance to wrap up the win with 3.2 seconds left. But Rattler forward Jonathan Kelly caught the ball out of bounds, sending the game into overtime.
Tate drilled his only 3-pointer with 32 seconds remaining in overtime to give FAMU a 94-92 lead. FAMU center Glen Elliott, who only played 18 minutes, forced a jump ball on a block and the possession arrow gave the Rattlers the ball with 4.6 seconds left. Ballard knocked down two free throws, sealing the victory.
“Glen sat on the bench
for a little bit of the second half and never pouted,” Gillespie said. “He got his number called to go back in the game and he makes the great play. It’s what I’m always talking about. It’s not how many minutes you play. It’s the productivity of the minutes you get.”
Gillespie put the Rattlers in a man-to-man defense for only the second time all season to slow down UMES’ guard tandem of Brooks, Ed Tyson and Troy Jackson.
“They’re a very hard team to guard off the dribble,” Gillespie said. “We played every zone defense we had. I was running out of ideas as to what to do to stop them. But we found one or two possessions at the end of the game to get stops and that proved to be the difference.”
Tyson finished with 17 points while Brooks scored 16 points with eight assists. Jackson led the Hawks with 22 points.
Tate scored 26 points, including going 13-of-17 from the foul line. He, along with Ballard, was able to penetrate into the lane almost at will to make up for several missed opportunities from the perimeter.
Ballard came into Saturday’s game averaging a modest 4.2 points-per-game. He finished with a season-high 18 points on 6-8 shooting, prompting Gillespie to call him the MVP of the game.
“I was just looking for my shot more. Coach told me to be more aggressive,” Ballard said. “They were pressing Tony so hard that they weren’t helping (away from him). That allowed me to take the (ball to the) lane and do what I do.”
Contact LeMont Calloway at email@example.com