The University of Maine at Fort Kent men’s basketball team appeared to be well on its way to the USCAA Division I national championship game Thursday night.
But the Bengals watched as Illinois Tech erased an 18-point second-half deficit and took coach Tom Bird’s club into a pair of overtimes, and Illinois Tech held on for a thrilling 85-84 upset win at Uniontown, Pennsylvania.
Illinois Tech improves to 22-5 and advances to the title game while UMFK winds up 23-9.
Travis Harlin Jr.’s 3-pointer with 3:18 left in the second OT had given the Bengals an 84-83 lead, and that’s where the score stood until Malik Howze’s layup with seven seconds left gave Illinois Tech an 85-84 edge.
The Bengals’ Bobby Syvanthong was fouled on the subsequent possession but he missed both foul shots.
UMFK had a chance to win it at the end of the first overtime after trailing by as many as four, but Syvanthong missed a layup in the final seconds.
The Bengals scored the first eight points of the second half to stretch their eight-point halftime lead to 16 points, and that lead increased to as many as 18 over the second 20 minutes.
But a furious comeback by Illinois Tech sent the game to overtime, with the tying basket coming on a Samuel Rarick 3-pointer with 20 seconds remaining.
Joe McCloskey missed a potential winning layup on UMFK’s final possession of regulation.
The Howland native wound up with a double-double with 26 points and 10 rebounds while Rosevelt Smith Jr., scored 20 points and Harlin 14.
Howze paced Illinois Tech with 27 points while Samuel Rarick had 22.
The Bengals were able to claw out to an eight-point halftime lead (32-24) thanks to a balanced offensive effort.
McCloskey scored 10 of his points over the first 20 minutes while Smith had nine. UMFK had trailed 16-14 at one point before Fred Sanchez’s 3-pointer gave the Bengals the lead.