WORCESTER, Mass. - Junior Zaire Williams (Paterson, N.J./Newark Academy) banked home the tie-breaking basket with 44 seconds remaining in overtime before hitting two critical free throws in the waning seconds of the Saint Michael's College men's basketball team's 96-93 victory at Assumption College on Saturday in Laska Gym. The Purple Knights improved to 7-18 overall and 5-15 in the Northeast-10 Conference, avenging a 10-point loss at home on Nov. 21 while winning for the fifth time in the last six meetings. The Greyhounds are 6-19 and 2-18.
Saint Michael's shot 51.7 percent from the field, including 60.0 percent in the second half and overtime, while connecting on 7-of-10 three-point attempts in the second half. The Purple Knights also went 26-of-30 on free throws, including 9-of-10 in the extra period, while holding a 43-24 rebounding advantage. All five of the Purple and Gold starters scored in double figures, as 10 of the team's 12 players scored. In a series that began in 1959, Saint Michael's pushed its winning streak in Assumption's gym to three contests for the first time.
Junior Matt Bonds (Accokeek, Md./North Point) put together his 18th double-double of the year for the Purple Knights, totaling 19 points and 17 rebounds, including five offensive, as he shot 5-of-9 from the floor and 9-of-12 at the charity stripe. First-year Levi Holmes III (East Brunswick, N.J./Rutgers Prep) posted 18 points, including 15 in the second half, thanks to 4-of-6 three-point shooting, and Williams had 17 points to come within one of his career high, as well as six assists versus zero turnovers and two steals. Senior Greg Grippo (Edison, N.J./Rutgers Prep) notched 14 points thanks to three three-pointers, and classmate Morrell Gaskins (Cambria Heights, N.Y./Archbishop Molloy) totaled 10 points behind 8-of-8 free throw shooting. Senior Harry Eromosele (Queens, N.Y./CTEA) was the high scorer off the bench, with eight points in eight minutes.
Holmes pushed his season total to 50 threes, becoming just the fourth Purple Knight first-year to hit that many. Grippo now has 166 triples for his career, passing Corey Crawford II '15 (164) for ninth in school history. Bonds' 18th double-double kept him alone in second in Division II. With 764 career rebounds, he became the 10th Purple Knight to reach 750, and Bonds is also now among the top 50 scorers in school annals with 943 points. Bonds has 405 points and 304 boards this year, becoming the seventh 400-300 player in program history, and the first since Ken Johnson '76 in 1975-76. That was also the most recent season in which a Purple Knight had 300 rebounds, with Johnson turning the trick, as Bonds is the 10th to reach the plateau. Bonds and Johnson are the program's only players with 300 boards since 1966-67.
For Assumption, which attempted 42 of its 71 shots from beyond the arc, senior Tre Owens had 21 points on 5-of-9 three-point shooting, and sophomore Mat Sulda was 6-of-10 from deep for 20 points off the bench. Senior Julian Aiken had 17 points, and junior reserve Reilly Reid totaled 15 points, six rebounds and six assists.
The Purple Knights had three different leads wiped out in overtime, with Assumption knotting the contest each time but never taking the lead. Bonds and Gaskins both hit two free throws en route to putting the visitors ahead 89-86 with 2:37 remaining, but Owens buried a tying three 22 seconds later. Grippo connected on a pair of freebies on the next possession, but Owens responded in kind with 1:47 to go.
After Grippo snagged a defensive board, Williams drove and banked a shot high off the glass with 47 seconds to go. Following a missed Greyhound shot, Grippo made one free throw at 14 seconds before sophomore Kamali Bey's lay-in cut the deficit to 94-93 with four seconds left. Williams caught the inbound pass under his own hoop and was immediately fouled at 2.9 seconds, which he followed by hitting two key free throws. Assumption had a chance to tie at the final buzzer, but a contested three-point attempt hit the right side of the glass.
Assumption's early 13-4 run gave the hosts a five-point edge 4:34 into the game, but 10 straight Purple Knight points, including six by Eromosele, swung the five-point advantage to the visitors. Bonds' two free throws made it 22-15 before the Greyhounds scored 14 straight points in a matter of 2:20, with Owens hitting two threes. Holmes later capped a tying 7-0 run with a trey, but the hosts took a 40-39 edge into the locker room.
Saint Michael's concluded a 12-0 run that bridged halftime by pulling ahead 49-40 3:07 into the second stanza, as Williams netted half of the points, and sophomore Colin Richey (Upton, Mass./Choate Rosemary Hall) dished to Bonds for a dunk before dropping home a lay-up 1:14 later to provide the Purple Knights a 58-47 advantage, their largest of the game, with 12:37 to play. The hosts slowly chipped away, with a 21-9 run resulting in an 81-77 lead after Sulda hit a triple with 53 seconds left in regulation. However, Grippo hit a three eight seconds later, and Aiken made two free throws before Holmes countered with a tying step-back three with 16 ticks remaining. Assumption turned the ball over with four seconds left, and a Purple Knight had a good look at a game-winning try, spinning into the lane before a jumper hit the side of the rim.
Saint Michael's hosts regionally-ranked Stonehill College to conclude its season on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. The Skyhawks are fourth in this week's NCAA East Region poll.