COLCHESTER, Vt. - Junior Levi Holmes III (East Brunswick, N.J./Rutgers Prep) hit two tie-breaking free throws with 2.7 seconds left in overtime, and sophomore Thomas Jackson III (Middletown, Conn./Holderness School) blocked a game-winning three-point attempt at the buzzer to help the Saint Michael's College men's basketball team upset regionally-ranked Saint Anselm College, 76-74, on Saturday during Senior Day in the Ross Sports Center.
The Purple Knights improved to 7-18 overall and 4-16 in the Northeast-10 Conference, downing the Hawks on Senior Day for the second time in three years, and improving to 31-22 at home in the all-time series. Saint Anselm, which entered the game atop the NE10 Northeast Division standings as the sixth-ranked team in the NCAA East Region rankings and the D2SIDA East Region Media Poll, slipped to 19-7 and 14-6, losing for the fourth time in five road games.
Holmes recorded his 18th 20-point game of the winter, scoring 24 points to go along with two blocks. Junior Derek Cheatom (Buffalo, N.Y./The Park School of Buffalo) had 18 points behind 3-of-6 three-point shooting to go along with two steals, while classmate Jaylen Hall (Chicago, Ill./Lincoln Park/Richard J. Daley) had 10 points on 2-of-3 three-point shooting and two steals. Senior Colin Richey (Upton, Mass./Choate Rosemary Hall) turned in eight points, eight rebounds, five assists, four offensive boards, three steals and two blocks.
In addition to Hall's appearance as a reserve, the Purple Knight bench saw first-year Jason Heter (Andover, N.J./Newton) near a double-double with nine points on 4-of-4 shooting with nine rebounds, five offensive boards and two assists in 19 minutes, while sophomore Eli DiGrande (Essex Junction, Vt./Essex) had 11 rebounds in 14 minutes. The hosts held a 49-40 advantage in rebounds, including 17-9 on the offensive glass, and utilized a 16-5 lead in points off of turnovers.
Richey and redshirt senior Bruno Beča (Zagreb, Croatia/Westchester Country Day School) were both recognized before their final college home game, with Beča also handing out an assist and grabbing a board in a starting role.
Junior Tim Guers scored a game-high 25 points for the Hawks while adding eight rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks. First-year Chris Paul had 13 points, 10 rebounds and three rejections, junior Cody Ball finished with 13 points, and senior Austin Nydegger totaled 12 points. Classmate Taylor Fortin handed out 11 assists, playing all 45 minutes. The Hawks, who entered the game second in the NE10 in scoring (83.9), failed to reach their average even with an extra five minutes, and were hurt by a 2-of-6 showing on free throws in overtime.
Richey's lay-in at 4:03 of the extra period put the hosts on top before Guers converted a three-point play 22 seconds later, but Holmes hit a mid-range jumper 10 seconds after that to swing the lead back in the Purple Knights' favor, and Cheatom's steal and difficult fastbreak lay-up at 2:46 was followed by Hall hitting two freebies with 1:56 left to cap a 6-0 run that gave the hosts a 74-69 edge. Ball and Fortin countered with baskets 29 seconds apart before Guers split two free throws at 32.0 seconds to knot the game before Saint Michael's held for the final possession. After a miss around five seconds, Holmes crashed the glass for the offensive board and was fouled, leading to two successful free throws at 2.7 ticks. Following a long inbound pass, a Hawk had a look at a game-winning three, but Jackson blocked the shot at the buzzer.
During a game that included 14 lead changes and 13 ties, neither team led by more than four points in the final 15:21 of regulation. After Holmes' lay-up at 4:10 tied the score at 62 apiece, Paul made two free throws with 3:04 left, and Guers went 1-of-2 at the charity stripe at 2:37 before DiGrande connected on two important freebies with 1:36 remaining after grabbing an offensive rebound. Saint Michael's gained possession following a shot-clock violation, and Holmes knocked down a tough baseline jumper at 48.2 ticks to put his team back in front. Guers again split two free throws at 29.1, leaving the teams tied at 66, and the Hawks blocked a pair of go-ahead attempts by the hosts in the final 10 seconds before another winning try was off the mark at the buzzer, sending the teams to overtime.
Following Holmes' opening lay-in 16 seconds into the contest, Saint Anselm countered with an 11-2 run, with Guers netting four points, as the visitors nabbed their largest first-half lead at 11-4 with 16:09 to go. After Paul's jumper kept the lead at 13-7, Saint Michael's scored the next eight points, with Heter's lay-up off Richey's feed putting the hosts ahead at 10:43. The Purple Knights twice led by as many as five points, including at 22-17 on sophomore Jordan Guzman's (Staten Island, N.Y./Xaverian) bucket with 8:37 remaining. However, the lead swung four times between Nydegger's lay-up at 6:35 and Cheatom's basket at 4:09. Nydegger buried a tying three from the corner with 2:46 to go, and Heter's lay-up off of another Richey pass put the hosts up for good at 53 seconds. In the waning seconds, Richey grabbed an offensive board and knocked down a mid-range jumper at the buzzer to send Saint Michael's into the locker room ahead 36-32.
DiGrande's corner three at 16:56 of the second half extended the lead to 44-35, but Ball hit three threes of his own during a 13-0 response, with Guers netting the other four points, including putting the Hawks in front 48-44 at 13:07. Heter's free throw tied the game at 50, but Nydegger's fast-break dunk was followed by a Ball lay-in. Saint Michael's responded with a 10-2 run, with Holmes scoring half the points, but six straight Guers points had the Hawks up two with 4:20 remaining.
Holmes increased his season point total to 605, the most by a Purple Knight since the program joined the NE10 in 1987-88, and the fifth-highest season figure in more than 100 years of basketball at the College. Only Rich Tarrant '65 (702, 685), Dick Falkenbush '67 (648) and George Daway '88 (609) have ever scored more. He is only the 14th Purple Knight with 200 field goals in a season (209), and his 88 threes leave him two shy of becoming the third player in school annals with 90. Holmes pushed his career figure to 1,277 points on Saturday, passing James Cambronne '15 (1,261) and Brendan Mullins '07 (1,263) to take over 23rd place in program history.
The Purple Knights finish their season at regionally-ranked Merrimack College on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. The Warriors are ninth in this week's D2SIDA East Region Media Poll and 10th in the NCAA regional rankings.