If you missed the Tigers taking on Highland Community College - Illinois in the finale of the 2018 Emerson Classic, you missed a good basketball game with an exciting and controversial ending.
With 34 seconds left in regulation, Deang Deang, the explosive Cougar point guard hit a floater in the land to tie the contest 69-69 with 34 seconds left on the clock. After a widely chaotic possession for the Tigers, the ball ended up in the hands of JJ Foster with four seconds remaining on the shot clock. Deang became a little overaggressive defensively and committed a reach-in foul with two seconds remaining on the shot clock and just over six seconds remaining on the game clock to send Foster to the free-throw line to shoot two as both teams were in the double-bonus for much of the second half.
Foster stepped up to the line. The first attempt rimmed out. Foster's second attempt was long and rebounded by Cougar big-man Luka Barisic. Barisic handed the ball to Deang who took the ball the length of the court and into the lane. Kelton Edwards for the Tigers, slid off of his man to cut off Deang. As Edwards slid over to help, Deang found Marlon Ruffin, who Edwards had left to help, under the basket with slightly under a second left. Ruffin elevated, was fouled by Goran Vidovic, and converted the lay-in. But during this time, the clock ran out and the red light was on signaling the end of regulation.
Both teams were sent to their benches as the referee crew met. After some discussion, it was determined that the foul by Vidovic occurred with .8 seconds remaining on the clock. The foul and the bucket counted. Ruffin was heading to the line with the Cougars leading the Tigers 71-69 with .8 seconds left. But not before a timeout was taken by Tiger Head Coach, Brynjar Brynjarson.
After the timeout, the Tigers loaded the court with three point shooters and put four in the lane to rebound. The Cougars left the land unoccupied to avoid a potential foul on the rebound. Ruffing stepped to the line and made his free throw to extend the Highland lead to 72-69. JJ Foster inbounded the ball nearly 40 feet to Kelton Edwards who was able to get up a half-court heave, but the attempt was off-line and the Cougars defeated the Tigers 72-69.
The game was well played, but marred by fouls by both teams in the second half. Both teams were in the bonus with nine minutes remaining in the second half resulting in 22 free-throw attempts for the Tigers and 19 for the Cougars. The difference in the game came down to the charity stripe where the Cougars converted 14-19 attempts while the Tigers struggled and made only 14 of their 22 attempts.
The Tigers were led in scoring by Kelton Edwards who scored 18 while Bassirou Ndiaye and Eduardo Lane led the Tigers in rebounds with eight apiece and JJ Foster led the team in assists with 4. For the Cougars, Luka Barisic recorded a game-high 21 points, Deang Deang had a game-high 5 assists, and Ziga Habat led all rebounders with nine.
It was a tough loss for the Tigers, but a well-played game throughout as neither team opened up a considerable lead. In the end, the Cougars were able to make one more play than the Tigers and left the Emerson Classic 2-0 as they defeated Iowa Lake on opening night of the tournament. The Tigers ended the tournament 1-1 with a win over Grand View JV in their Friday night contest.
The Tigers will be back in action when they travel to Quincy, IL to take on the Blazers of John Wood Community College. The Tigers enter the contest at 4-4. Meanwhile, the Blazers are 3-2 and ranked #18 in the NJCAA DII polls.