There once was a time when William and Mary was known for its late game prowess. Led by a core group of seniors, the 2009-2010 incarnation of the Tribe frequently possessed the ability to claw its way out of any deficits and come out on top before the final buzzer sounded. Last season, the College went 12-4 in games decided by five points or fewer.
With 12 seconds remaining in the College’s 54-52 defeat against Drexel Saturday, a much younger and inexperienced version of the Tribe found itself in a very familiar situation — tied at 51, with the opportunity to steal a game against a superior conference opponent.
Freshman guard Julian Boatner had locked Drexel’s Chris Fouch into a deep corner of the court, and appeared to have his opponent contained. But Fouch leapt up, saw the clock expiring, and launched a high, arching shot that sailed through the basket, supllying the decisive points that would ultimately lead to a crushing defeat for the College in Philadelphia, Pa.
“I was guarding the shot,” freshman guard Julian Boatner said. “They dug into the post, I dug a little bit, and then I got up top, and I basically fouled him, but he hit a tough shot. You just had to pat him on the back. We then had to try to go down and score, which we unfortunately didn’t.”
The loss brings the College’s record to 7-19 overall with a 3-12 mark in the conference. Drexel, whom the Tribe defeated earlier this year, moves to 17-8 overall and 9-6 in the CAA.
“I thought it was a great performance and a terrific effort,” Head Coach Tony Shaver said. “We left everything on the floor, we rebounded really well, we defended really well. It was a very physical CAA game, and we shot no free throws in the first half and very few in the second half … I really think our guys played well, and in many ways, it encapsulates many of the games we have had this year. We play very well, but we come up a possession or two short.”
The Tribe stayed with the Dragons for the majority of the game and never fell behind by more than five points. Drexel held a slim, 24-23 halftime advantage, but the two squads traded basket for basket for the majority of the second half.
The College led 50-49 with 1:16 left in the contest and appeared poised to score and seal the game. Freshman guard Brandon Britt drove, spun and was ready to drive into the lane when he was whistled for an offensive foul — a From there, Drexel made two free throws and Boatner provided the Tribe with one as well to bring the score to 51-51, setting up Fouch’s decisive basket.
The Tribe’s late game stagnation has been a common theme for the squad this season, a theme that can be attributed to the College’s lack of experience.
“In a lot of ways, this season is a lot like last year, but down the stretch we haven’t made the plays like we did last year,” senior center Marcus Kitts said. “We have been in so many close games, which is similar, but we just haven’t gotten the wins.”
While the College’s efforts ultimately resulted in defeat, the squad played well, especially offensively. The Tribe benefitted from a very balanced offensive effort, in which all but one of the College’s eight players scored at least two points.
Kitts led the way for the College, muscling his way to 11 points. Boatner scored seven points, while Britt notched eight points on a 3-for-10 shooting night. Sophomore forward Kyle Gaillard, junior guard Kendrix Brown and sophomore guard Matt Rum each added five points.
The balanced offense helped pick up the slack for junior forward Quinn McDowell, the team’s leading scorer, who contributed nine points amidst heavy pressure from Drexel defenders.
“Teams are really giving a great deal of attention to Quinn,” Shaver said. “They have all year long, but in the second time around in league play, they are even more. They are playing him with small, athletic wing players right now, and its been difficult to get looks, but other guys stepped up. It was a low scoring game so we didn’t have many in double figures, but a lot of guys contributed.”
Despite the heartbreaking finishes and near-misses which have plagued the College this season, the squad remains confident heading into next month’s CAA tournament in Richmond, Va. The Tribe will possibly be the 11th seed, but it is confident it can make a run in the tournament.
“We are really close,” Kitts said. “We just need to do the little things and keep playing with energy like we did tonight, we will finish really strong.”