Sophomore guard Nicholas Clifton stepped to the charity stripe and split a pair of free-throw attempts with one minute, 37 seconds remaining in regulation to give Maryville College its first lead of the game and of the season.
It was the culmination of the resiliency the Scots showed throughout the latter half of the second period, but what occurred at the end of regulation and the overtime session that followed was a reminder that this young team is still learning how to win.
Maryville squandered multiple opportunities to put Oglethorpe away, leaving the door open for Lane Foster to hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer that handed Maryville an 83-81 loss Saturday inside Boydson Baird Gymnasium.
“We’re getting better, but there are still so many things that we have to correct,” Maryville College coach Raul Placeres told The Daily Times. “It’s hard for me because by nature I’m not a real patient person, but I’m having to become patient because we’re playing seven, eight freshmen. For a lot of these guys, this was their fourth collegiate basketball game.
“There’s not much I can say when you get beat on a buzzer beater, but this will only make us better. At the end of the day, we’re in the type of conference where it comes down to conference play.”
Maryville (0-4), however, would prefer to pick up its first win of the season before it hosts Covenant in its USA South opener Wednesday. Its last remaining opportunity to do so is against No. 2 Emory at 4 p.m. today. The Scots nearly accomplished the feat Saturday against the Stormy Petrels (3-2) but came up one play short in both regulation and overtime.
Clifton missed a free throw with 53 seconds remaining in the second half that would have given Maryville a 72-71 lead. Instead, the two sides went into overtime tied at 71 after junior point guard JR Sanders had a shot blocked with one second left and the Scots were unable to control the ensuing inbounds pass underneath the basket.
Maryville led for three minutes, 48 seconds of the possible five minutes in overtime, but two turnovers and missed a free throw by senior guard Joshua Brooks with 18 seconds remaining prevented it from sealing the victory. The Scots went 17-for-31 from the free-throw line, dropping its season percentage to 55.4%.
“We’re working on it constantly in practice and I’m asking them to come in and shoot them on their own,” Placeres said. “Sometimes you don’t want to talk about it because then it becomes a mental thing. I’m over there sprinkling water, punching a person, grabbing bald heads and whatever it takes to make a free throw.
“We just have to continue to work, and that’s part of it.”
Carlos Sone drilled a 3-pointer with 10 seconds left to put Oglethorpe back on top before freshman guard Barron Nease found freshman forward Felix Uadiale wide open underneath the basket for a go-ahead layup five seconds later. It went for naught.
Foster dribbled the length of the court and pulled up at the 3-point line, leaning forward before releasing a shot that banked in off the backboard.
“You see the shot go in the air, and it was probably only up there for a second, but it felt like it was up there for 50 minutes,” Placeres said. “It hurts, and it should hurt when you battle that hard and you take the lead and you basically have the game won.
“You have to be grateful for these losses if you’re going to be grateful for the wins. We’re getting there, and all we can do is continue to plug away and keep battling.”
Of the eight players that logged double-digit minutes for Maryville on Saturday, six are freshmen and sophomores.
That inexperience has come with a steep learning curve that is preventing Placeres from celebrating his first win at the helm of the program after spending the past eight years under Randy Lambert as an assistant.
He isn’t worried. It’s only a matter of time.
“People will talk about being 0-4, but that stuff doesn’t bother me because I know we’re getting progressively better,” Placeres said. “By no means are we there, but I really like this team and the potential it has. These are growing pains that happen when you play a lot of young guys.
“This only makes us better, and we have to continue to go in that direction.”