By Michael Otero
With time winding down in double-overtime and the men’s basketball team leading by one, the University of the District of Columbia escaped the Pratt Recreation Center with a victory when junior guard Virgil Fleming nailed a three pointer as time expired. The 86-84 defeat on Saturday, Feb. 27, leaves the Pioneers with the number four seed in the East Coast Conference Championship.
Earlier in the game, the Pioneers trailed by double-digits before a huge 21-4 run over a five minute span flipped the script. Junior guard Jared Hall, who earned ECC Men’s Basketball Player of the Week honors, got the run started with the first eight points. Junior forward Greg Dotson, who turned in a career performance with 30 points and 19 rebounds, also had eight points during that stretch and led all players with 16 points at the break. At the horn, the Pioneers led 36-31.
The Pioneers pushed their lead to as many as nine in the second half thanks to free throws from Hall and fast break points from senior guard Akosa Maduegbunam. The Firebirds from UDC showed resiliency though; battling back to even up the score at 62 with just under four and a half minutes left.
In the last minute of regulation, both sides had chances to win the game. The Firebirds missed two shots from the field while the Pioneers failed to convert on any of their four chances at the charity stripe.
The overtime sessions were a back and forth battle that saw a handful of lead changes. After a deadlocked first overtime, the Pioneers seemed poised for victory in the second overtime on several occasions. At the four minute mark, senior guard Devon McMillan nailed a three pointer to put the Pioneers up 80-76 and with under a minute remaining and the Pioneers up one, Dotson put his team up three with a thunderous dunk.
After free throws by the Firebirds made it a one point game, the Pioneers failed to extend their lead with a basket on the offensive end which gave the Firebirds an opportunity to win the game. After a timeout, sophomore forward Thomas Robinson set up Fleming for the gamewinning, cold-blooded three at the buzzer.
In addition to Dotson’s terrific play, Maduegbunam totaled 20 points and seven boards while Hall collected 16 points and grabbed five rebounds. McMillan also pitched in with 11 points, nine boards, three assists and five steals.
The Pioneers will host fifth-seeded University of Bridgeport in the first round of the ECC Championship on Wednesday, March 2. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.