With the game on the wire, Head Coach Tony Shaver drew up a play for his seniors to execute and they delivered.
Shaver called a full timeout with 29.7 seconds remaining (27 seconds showed on the shot clock) to instruct his team that senior forward Laimis Kisielius and senior guard Nathan Mann would be the centerpieces of the final possession. As the clock ticked down, Kisielius found Mann open on the left wing. Mann ball-faked, dribbled once and launched a three-pointer that rimmed out, found the glass and nestled home for a 63-60 Tribe win over Old Dominion University.
“I couldn’t be happier for him to knock in that last shot,” Shaver said. “And we went to him the last play. We ran a play that involved our two seniors and they made the play to win the ballgame for us.”
For most of the game, Mann struggled to find his shooting stroke from outside, but with 6:55 left and in a one possession game, Mann stroked home his first three-pointer of the tournament to push the College’s lead to six at 53-47.
“I’m probably in the worst slump of my career these last four or five games,” Mann said. “It’s real hard for a shooter to identify why, but I mean the only thing you can do is keep shooting and try to play with confidence. They’ll eventually start falling.”
For the Tribe, his shots fell at just the right time.
In a game which saw the College start 0-10 from the floor, the Tribe stayed in the game with its defense, holding the Monarchs to 23 first half points and 37.5 percent shooting for the game. After missing its first 10 attempts, the College trailed ODU 9-2 and finally connected on a pair of treys from sophomore guard David Schneider and junior forward Peter Stein respectively to close the gap to one at 9-8 and ignite a 14-0 run that catapulted the Tribe to its largest lead of the game at 22-13.
The Monarchs closed the first half with a 10-2 run to close to within one at halftime 24-23. In the team’s second meeting of the season, the Tribe led 37-36 at the break, but failed to maintain its lead in the second half.
In today’s third contest between the teams, the College started quickly, scoring the first five points of the second half to push its lead to 29-23. But just like the first half, ODU hung around, continuing to battle and prevent the Tribe from creating a working margin. Three-pointers from Brian Henderson, Abdi Lidonde and Darius James kept the Monarchs close, but the College continued to answer. Back-to-back treys and a pair of free throws from Tribe sophomore forward Danny Sumner pushed the College’s lead to eight at 50-42.
“He’s a pretty good sophomore,” Shaver said. “He gives us an offensive punch that we really need right now as a ballclub.”
Nearly as quickly as Sumner boosted the Tribe, the Monarchs clawed back to within three with 7:31 left and their work on the offensive glass down the stretch allowed them to take their only lead of the second half.
After sophomore guard David Schneider rushed a pass, Monarchs’s guard Brandon Johnson grabbed the ball and headed down court. His teammates eventually found center Gerald Lee down low with good position in the paint. Lee’s defender Stein rejected his first attempt, but Lee corralled the rebound and found the hoop with a stick-back to put the Monarchs ahead 58-57 with 1:41 remaining. ODU’s one-point lead soon evaporated, as Schneider buried a trey from the top of the key to give the College a two-point cushion.
However, the Monarchs battled again on the offensive boards. After two misses, Johnson sailed toward the basket, collecting the rebound and tipping the ball in along the way to knot the game at 60 a piece.
For the second straight day, the Tribe found itself with the ball in its hand with the game on the line. The shooter may have been different, but the result was the same as Mann’s second three-pointer of the day put the College ahead 63-60 with 7.5 seconds left.
After a Tribe timeout, ODU advanced the ball to mid-court before Monarch Head Coach Blaine Taylor called a full timeout. With 5.8 seconds remaining, ODU inbounded the ball again, but the College’s junior forward Chris Darnell committed a foul, stopping the clock at 4.6 seconds. The Tribe had committed just four fouls prior to Darnell’s, so the College had fouls to give to disrupt the Monarchs final possessions.
Johnson received the final inbounds pass and launched a three-pointer that hit the glass, bounced off the rim and found the arms of Mann, sealing the Tribe’s victory and its third-ever trip to the semifinals of the CAA tournament.
Kisielius and Sumner paced the Tribe with 16 points a piece, while Mann netted 10 points. Kisielius finished 7-10 from the field and displayed his versatility, hitting reverse lay-ups, a leaner and even a tip-in to keep the College ahead.
The Tribe faces no. 1 seed Virginia Commonwealth University at 3:00 p.m. in Sunday’s first semifinal.