For the first time since 2005, the men’s basketball team claimed the Liberty League crown, clinching a berth in the NCAA Tournament. This will be the team’s fourth appearance in the tournament in program history.
The Dutchmen achieved this feat by defeating Hobart and William Smith 71-67 in a back-and-forth contest in the Liberty League Championship on Saturday afternoon, hosted by Union. Deshon Burgess ’17 (pictured left battling to score against four Hobart and William Smith basketball players) had a game-high 33 points, including a three-pointer that gave the Dutchmen a 69-67 lead with 15.8 seconds left to play. Burgess also sank two clutch free throws in the final seconds to seal the victory. Hobart led for almost the entire second half and held a 64-58 lead with four minutes left to play.
Burgess took over from there, outscoring the visitors 13-3 down the stretch. Colin Dougherty briefly restored Hobart’s lead with a three-point play before Burgess knocked down the three-pointer that gave Union the lead for good. As it has all season, strong three-point shooting proved crucial for the Dutchmen, as they lost the turnover battle 17-7 and were outscored 36-16 in the paint; Union shot 44 percent from deep. Burgess, Kevin Weckworth ’17 and Wade McNamara ’17 all hit three three-pointers, while Greg King ’18, the only player on either team to play all 40 minutes, added two more.
King contributed on both ends of the floor, finishing with 12 points and seven rebounds. McNamara had a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds, despite sitting out the final 12 minutes of the game with an injury. Burgess’ heroics against Hobart was nothing new. The senior also hit a game-winning three-pointer with less than a second left in the Dutchmen’s 110-108 double overtime win over St. Lawrence in the semifinals last week.
Burgess had 34 points in the win, matching his career-high, and 21 of his points came from three-pointers. Against St. Lawrence, Union, who shot 51.4 percent from behind the three-point line, saw their 50-42 halftime lead stretch to 11 points early in the second half before the Saints came back to force overtime.
In the first five-minute overtime period, King drilled a three with 18 seconds left to tie the score at 102-102. McNamara would miss a jumper at the buzzer, sending the teams to another overtime. King had 21 points, a career high, 11 rebounds and four assists, while McNamara collected 16 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
Neither team could score after Riley Naclerio put St. Lawrence ahead 108-107 with two minutes left in double overtime until Burgess stunned the Saints in the final second of play. On the play, Weckworth, who had 15 points and six assists, grabbed the defensive rebound with just over 10 seconds left in the action. Burgess dribbled the ball up court, exchanged passes with Zach Bouton ’17, and pulled up for a deep three-pointer. A desperation heave from St. Lawrence was way off, giving the Dutchmen the famous victory that would send them on their way to the Liberty League Championship.
This Friday the men’s basketball team will face off against Wesleyan University in the first round of the NCAA Division III tournament.