GENEVA – The Vassar College men’s basketball team was eliminated from postseason play off a pair of free throws from Pete Drescher of the Hobart College Statesmen Saturday evening at Bristol Gymnasium during the Liberty League Championship Finals. The Brewers (19-8) fell 75-74 in double overtime.
Junior Curtis Smith, sophomore Johnny Mrlik and sophomore Erikson Wasyl were honored as members of the All-Tournament Team. Mrlik led the Brewers with 18 points and added six rebounds while Wasyl recorded 15 tallies and Smith had 12. Joe Gibbons led the Statesmen (21-6) and the game with 23 points and 11 boards. Connor Rehbaum scored 15 and Richie Bonney supplemented the score with 14.
Hobart began the second half when Gibbons stole the ball just 30 seconds into play and got the fastbreak dunk. The play put the Statesmen ahead, 34-27. Vassar continuously chipped away at the lead until the score was in its favor 58-56 with 51 seconds remaining of regulation off a pair of Mrlik free throws. Bonney was fouled with 37 seconds remaining that sent him to the line for two.
The senior Statesman missed the first and instead of trying to sink the last, beamed the ball off the front of the rim, grabbed it and made the uncontested layup, tying the game 58-58 with 35 to play.
Mrlik put up a last second jumper with five seconds remaining despite three Hobart players in the way that bounced up off the spring box and just missed the fall-down netter as the two teams prepared for extra minutes.
With less than a minute to play in the first overtime, Vassar fans attending the game, watching from home and watching from the Athletics and Fitness Center back in Poughkeepsie held their breaths, cheered, repeated holding back from breathing and then clutched their hearts during Vassar’s final two possessions of the period.
The reason for the fans’ reactions to the gameplay was based on the plays from Smith as he found twine off a jumper with 47 seconds remaining and tied the game 64-64. Moments later after an offensive foul from Bonney (his fifth and disqualifying commitment), the Brewer took an identical shot with seven seconds left of play, and possibly the tournament. Smith’s high-shot mimicked that of Mrlik’s and set up the second overtime.
The second overtime period showed no difference than the first besides Vassar being without two of its starters, Mrlik and junior forward Alex Snyder and Hobart missing Bonney’s presence on the court. Wasyl, Smith and junior Luka Ladan kept draining three-pointers, jumpers and layups until Rehbaum hit a free throw with 42 seconds left, giving the hosts the 73-72 lead.
The Brewers finish the season as the greatest Vassar men’s basketball team with the most season wins, most Liberty League wins, most points scored in a Liberty League game, the second best win streak, the first time beating an opponent from the NESCAC and holding one of the top defenses in the country for a stay. Vassar ends as the #2 team in the League after being voted in the preseason polls to finish eighth out of the nine teams.