BANGOR, Maine — Brock Bradford still remembered how he felt losing to Elms College his freshman year at Husson University. He wasn’t about to relive the experience as a senior.
So after a Husson timeout with nine seconds to play and Elms holding a one-point lead, Bradford took the inbounds pass from the opposite baseline, dribbled downcourt and never stopped until he scored the winning hoop in Husson’s 83-82 victory at Newman Gym late Saturday afternoon.
“It was going to go to somebody else since we figured they’d try to force the ball out of my hands, but where they didn’t trap and left one guy on me, I figured I’d go as far as the defense allowed and it happened to be all the way to the basket,” said Bradford.
The pulse-pounding thriller was a great way to send the Eagles into their holiday break. Though just 4-3 overall, the win over the 25th-ranked team in the NCAA Division III ranks was huge for the Eagles.
Bradford found a seam in the middle of the paint after bringing the ball over half-court, knifed into the lane, switched the ball to his left hand, and laid it in with a one-handed scoop shot.
“There was one guy coming at me and another coming from the other side, so I didn’t want to lay it up over the rim and didn’t want to take it to the right side, so I switched it to my left hand and laid it in,” said the guard from Kenduskeag, who finished with 18 points, six assists and four steals.
The 6-2 Blazers tried to get off a last shot, but after taking an inbounds pass at half-court, Javon Mathis (11 points, eight rebounds) stepped out of bounds and Husson ran out the remaining 0.2 seconds.
The finish capped a solid all-around effort for the Eagles, who got contributions up and down the bench from senior forward Matt MacKenzie’s 21 points and six rebounds; to freshman guard Phil Leighton’s 2-for-2 3-point-shooting, 16-point, three-steal effort off the bench; to freshman reserve forward Marc Zaharchuk’s seven points in 11 minutes.
“I feel like our guys collectively rose to a big challenge to get that statement win that has eluded us this semester, and really the last couple years,” said Husson head coach Warren Caruso, who is now one win away from 300 in his career. “This kind of win can propel you to greater things.”
Junior forward Jay Uhrin of Winterport hit two of three 3-pointers en route to 10 points and five boards.
“When you have a couple of good teams with solid key guys, sometimes those guys cancel each other out, so it’s the guys off the bench and stuff that make the difference,” said Elms coach Ed Silva.
Husson used a 15-2 run that started with 50 seconds left in the first half and continued through the first 2½ minutes of the second to go up 47-33, but Elms chipped away and used a 9-3 run to cut it to seven with 13 minutes to play and then a 9-2 run to make it a two-point game with 2:42 left.
A rebound and put-back by Brittain Purcelle (10 points) with 56 seconds left gave Elms its first lead (80-79) since midway through the first half. MacKenzie’s rebound and score gave Husson the lead back, but he missed the foul shot that would have made it a two-point game with 24 seconds left. A Bryant Corcoran (12 points) hoop from the low post made it 82-81 Elms and set up Bradford’s play.
Juan Maldonado led the Blazes with 23 points, five assists and four steals despite injuring his knee and missing seven minutes in the first half.