BUFFALO, NY – On Wednesday, December 5th, The Bryant & Stratton College - Buffalo Bobcats handed the Villa Maria Vikings their first loss of the season in overtime, 99-95.
The atmosphere was filled with electricity at Villa Maria Athletic Center as fans filed through the doors eager to watch both teams go head to head.
After all, 12 months ago, this match up would have never come to mind. Bryant & Stratton College had yet to announce their new athletic program, let alone hire Coach Damone Brown, who was working the sidelines for the Villa Maria Vikings as an assistant Coach. In just three years, Brown helped lead the Vikings to back to back trips to the National Tournament. Now, across the city, he is building his own program at Bryant & Stratton College, not even 10 miles from Villa Maria.
It would be putting it lightly to say that emotions were high for this game. The Bobcats were 5-2 coming into the contest, and their only two losses (ECC and Alfred University) had been to well-coached, veteran teams. Villa Maria, on the other hand, came into this mid-week match up with a perfect 8-0 record.
In the first half, the Bobcats came out ready to play. With high energy and tough defense, they made Villa Maria struggle for every shot they took, and as the pressure mounted, they turned their defense into offense behind the aggressive play of the big three: Jordan Street, Tyrell Mitchell, and Nicc Johnson.
The Bobcats shot 57% from the field in the first half. Street controlled the paint with eight points and five rebounds; Nicc Johnson spotted up from the wings and from the corner, knocking down some deep three pointers for 10 points in the first half; Tyrell Mitchell slashed and cut through the Viking defense for 12 points and four assists.
Everything was going right for the Bobcats. The only bright spot for Villa Maria seemed to be the guard play of Daniel Thompson, who penetrated and broke down the defense from all angles. Thompson knocked down a three from deep. Then when the defense closed out on him, he penetrated and finished at the hoop or got to the free throw line.
Other Vikings followed suit; in fact, nearly half of Villa Maria’s points by halftime came at the free throw line. The Vikings went 19-24 from the line and drew two fouls on Jordan Street, Damone Brown Jr., Kevin Ford, and Warren Richardson.
At halftime, the Bobcats were up by nine points, leading 51-42.
Starting the second half, however, one wondered if Bryant & Stratton - Buffalo could keep up the pace. They were shooting almost 60% from the field and controlling the boards. The Bobcats had out rebounded the Vikings in the first half 23-8. So, one expected the tide to turn, but it didn’t happen immediately.
Coming out of the locker room, the Bobcats hit the hardwood running. The first play they called was a backdoor alley oop for Tyrell Mitchell who nearly caught an overthrown pass from Taijay Williams. It was like the Bobcats were trying to end this game early, and in the first five minutes, they opened up a 15 point lead.
But, Villa Maria would not go down without a fight. Behind the play of Dominic Douglas and Jonathan Pozo, the Vikings battled back.
After a slow first half, Pozo started taking the ball to the rim, and his teammate, Dominic Douglas, did the same. Douglas barely missed from anywhere he shot the ball from. He went 8-12 from the field and 10-14 from the free throw line. Pozo willed his way to 19 points for the game, working for every basket he got. Backing these two performances, also, was the play of Gerald Bibbs, who came out of nowhere to shoot 4-7 from the three-point line and finish with 15 points.
The run by Villa Maria happened so suddenly that if you weren’t watching closely, you might have missed that they cut a 15-point Bobcat advantage to two points in the final two minutes of the game. Dominic Douglas swished a baseline jumper to tie the game 82-82, and on the other end, Jordan Street missed two free throws.
And, with 30 seconds left Villa Maria was up 84-82.
Street would redeem himself on the very next play. He took two defenders on his back to finish a lay up with the foul.
Unfortunately, Street would miss the foul shot, and the game remained locked at 84-84. By this time, the crowd had worked itself into a frenzy, filling the bleachers and standing alongside the edges of the court. Villa had the possession with 14 seconds left on the clock, but committed a costly turnover, which gave the Bobcats one more shot at ending the game in regulation.
Taijay Williams pushed the ball down court and passed it to Tyrell Mitchell. Mitchell exchanged a hand off with Johnson, which Johnson reversed and handed it back to Mitchell. With four seconds left, Mitchell was forced to shoot a long three that almost dropped at the buzzer.
Instead, the Vikings and Bobcats would go to overtime.
In overtime, the Bobcats returned to form behind the play of Mitchell, who finished with a game high 28 points, six assists, six rebounds, and one steal. In fact, in their most balanced scoring of the year, B&SC - Buffalo, aside from Mitchell, had four more players in double figures – Street, Johnson, Brown, and Fulton – and Williams wasn’t far behind adding nine points and six assists.
For the Vikings, Dominic Douglas took high point honors with 26 points; Pozo and Bibbs weren't far behind with 19 points and 15 points, respectively.
Handing the Villa Maria Vikings their first loss of the season, the Bryant & Stratton College - Buffalo Bobcats pulled out a tough game in overtime to improve their record to 6-2. Next, the Bobcats are set to take on Green Mountain College at Burt Flickinger Athletic Center on Saturday at 6pm.