The Rattlers must have a thing for dramatic conclusions.
In their second consecutive home game, the Rattlers squeezed out yet another close win, this time a 66-65 hairline victory against the struggling Howard Bison (2-14, 1-6) in front of a sizable crowd.
Not only did the extreme heat in Gaither Gymnasium continue to play a factor as it did Jan. 21 in the 96-92 overtime win over Maryland-Eastern Shore, the Rattlers (10-9, 6-2) kept consistent with keeping fans on the edge of their seats with excitement and anticipation.
That is, until one fan could no longer remain in his seat.
Rattler guard Tony Tate followed a Jonathan Kelly missed layup with an offensive rebound and made what was thought to be the game-winning basket.
In Rucker Park fashion, one fan stormed onto the court.
The only problem was there was still four seconds remaining on the clock.
FAMU was issued a technical foul for the blunder, giving the Bison a chance to tie the game. But Howard’s Louis Ford, a 73 percent free-throw shooter, made only one free throw.
“I was hoping we wouldn’t get a tech, but the ref told me that’s what it said in the rule book when someone runs onto the court,” said Rattler center Rome Sanders.
Sanders led the Rattlers with 20 points and seven rebounds.
Darryl Hudson finished with 14 points on 6-of-8 shorting to lead the Bison.
Knowing the technical foul could have cost them the game, head coach Mike Gillespie said he instead appreciated the fan’s enthusiasm.
“I’m just glad he was at the game,” Gillespie said. “That young man was just as excited as we were and you can’t hold anything against him.
He didn’t know what he was doing, but he was just happy we got a basket.”
The win put the Rattlers above .500 for the second time this season and maintains their second place standing in the MEAC behind Delaware State.
Tate finished with 12 points going 6-of-6 from the foul line and is steadily inching his way toward 1,000 career points as a Rattler.
“Howard is a tough team who came in here with a desire to play basketball tonight,” Tate said. “But I have a desire not to lose. I don’t know how to accept losing sometimes and my teammates know that.”
After trailing by as much as 10 points in the second half, FAMU staged a rallying comeback to take a 62-59 lead off a Michael Sams 3-pointer with 2:13 remaining.
But Howard’s Jason Trotter tied the game at 64 with 17 seconds left, adding another chapter of drama to unfold in the already storied Rattler-Bison rivalry.
With only two wins on the season, Howard’s close call proved how unpredictable the MEAC can be in the long run.
But Gillespie again pointed to the warm conditions of the gym, which he felt worked in their favor.
“We played an overtime game in an incredibly humid, warm gym Saturday where our guys played 40-plus minutes,” Gillespie said. “To come back in the same conditions today, our guys were drained. And yet I thought the heat affected them more down the stretch.
It’s sad the weather does play an outcome in the game, but it’s fortunate we play in that everyday.
I just can’t wait until the new gym gets built so we can play in some air conditioning.”
The Rattlers travel to Delaware State Saturday afternoon and will face 16th ranked Ohio State on Monday.
Contact LeMont Calloway at email@example.com