Successful teams seem to always have a signature win during a season. A victory, or victories that teams use to propel their seasons.
A bounce here or a bounce there, and the results could be different. But at the end of the day, a win, more importantly, a conference win, can make all the difference at the end of a campaign.
The Manhattan Jaspers did just that, and if they go to have any success this year, they might have to circle their thrilling, 92-87 triple overtime victory against the Siena Saints as the game of the year.
And if that’s not the case, for head coach Steve Masiello, the game at the very least personified what his team is all about.
“This was a great reflection of a bunch of kids who were overlooked,” Masiello said, “who are blue collar, who don’t mind rolling up their sleeves, who don’t want credit. I don’t know if college basketball is that way, but I think Manhattan is … I thought it was a great indicator of our program. … Anyone could have won this game. A ball or two here or there and anyone wins this game. I just thought the way these two teams competed is great for college basketball. I wish more games and teams were like these two teams tonight.”
For Shane Richards, the win marks the start of a new season for the Jaspers.
“These were two very big wins,” Richards said about the victories against Fairfield on Saturday and Siena on Monday. “Especially at home, where we have to take care of business at. I think we did that. … Turned the corner for sure. This is a dramatic improvement, but there’s no easy outs in the MAAC, as you saw today and as you saw against Fairfield.”
If the game were judged by the first half, there was no way to predict it would go to three overtimes. The first half saw the teams combine for 25 fouls, and it looked like they would follow suit on their encounter on Dec. 4, when Manhattan had four players foul out of the game.
In that contest, perhaps Manhattan’s lowest point of the season, a 35-point blowout at the hands of the Saints, the teams combined for 53 fouls.
It is hard to follow a foul-o-thon like the first meeting with one as similar, but the Saints and Jaspers looked like they were going to do just that.
The over aggressiveness on defense slowed down the pace in the first half and never allowed either team to get into a rhythm. Both teams flirted with spurts of dominance, but neither could sustain its runs.
The Saints came out firing out of the gate, knocking down five of their first six field goals to build a 10-2 lead. However, the Jaspers slowly cut into the lead and engaged in a back and forth battle with the Saints throughout the first half.
The Jaspers trailed by two on six occasions and cut the deficit to one after Zane Waterman’s put-back-dunk to end the first half cut Siena’s lead to 38-37.
It would not be a wire-to-wire victory for the Saints however. The Jaspers finally took the lead at the 14:51 mark in the second half after RaShawn Stores knocked down a triple from the left corner.
Stores’ triple was part of a 12-2 run the Jaspers used to build a 49-43 lead. The fouls were quelled in the second half, as the teams opened up the game more.
With 6:54 to play, Rich Williams knocked down a three-pointer that gave Manhattan its biggest lead in the game at 62-54. However, the Saints came storming back, using a 7-1 run to cut Manhattan’s lead to two.
The teams exchanged points for the next six minutes, but with the score tied at 65 and 1:11 to play, neither team could find a basket. The Saints had several looks inside but their layups did not go in. On the other end, the Jaspers had two good looks with Stores for three, but both shots rattled in and out.
After going scoreless for the last two minutes in regulation, the teams headed into overtime, tied at 65. It was a scoring spree in overtime, as the teams went blow for blow. A nifty, no look, drop off pass from Stores to Calvin Crawford resulted in a one-handed slam that put the Jaspers up 69-67. Crawford’s dunk was matched by Nico Clareth who tied the game at 71 later on, and who then gave Siena a 74-73 lead with a triple two possessions later.
The Jaspers tied the game after Crawford split a pair of free throws, but the game would head into double overtime, as Brett Bisping failed to convert on a layup inside as the time expired.
Double overtime was closely contested again. The Saints led 79-77 with less than a minute to play, but Crawford tied the game with a strong layup through traffic. The Jaspers got a stop on defense, but failed to win the game as Stores missed a running floater.
Manhattan got out to a 5-0 run to start the third overtime and seemed to have regained control and momentum. The Jaspers maintained their five-point lead throughout most of the period, but with the score 88-83, the Saints converted on a free throw, and knocked down a triple after securing the offensive rebound on the second free throw, which was missed.
The Saints trailed by one, but Richards’ layup with 15 seconds remaining stretched Manhattan’s lead to three. The Jaspers forced a turnover on Siena’s possession, and after Richards was intentionally fouled, the Jaspers held on to a 92-87 victory.
“Two basketball teams that had great toughness, great composure,” Masiello said. “I thought our guys might have had a little bit more down the stretch. A break or two, here or there. … We’re winning ugly and good teams can win ugly. I think we’re starting to become that slowly. We’re a long way away, but I couldn’t be more proud of these guys’ efforts and the way they handled themselves.”
Against Fairfield the Jaspers had four score in double-figures, tonight they had five. Richards led the way with 21 points. Waterman notched his first double-double of his career with 12 points and 13 rebounds, and Stores had 16 points, five rebounds and four assists.
“We have to keep everybody happy,” Stores said about the team’s ball movement. “But it’s more in the defensive end, that’s what brings our culture. When we do that, that’s when everyone is happy.”
Manhattan heads out on the road this week, making its annual trip to Buffalo to take on Canisius on Thursday and Niagara on Saturday.