HERKIMER — Making its first appearance in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division III Tournament since 2007, the Fulton-Montgomery men’s basketball team came up short in overtime Wednesday.
The sixth-seed Raiders dropped an 89-85 overtime decision to 11th-seeded DuPage at Herkimer College in a first-round contest.
Drew Gaston scored 33 points and was 13 for 13 from the free-throw line to lead DuPage, while Matt Elliott had 15 points and 19 rebounds. Gerald Tate had 16 points for the Chaparrals and Alijah Nelson finished with 14 points.
As a team, DuPage finished 21 for 21 from the line.
“[They] shot it well from the free-throw line,” FMCC coach E.J. Gallup said.
Nahjhime Kirton scored 29 points and pulled down 17 rebounds to lead FMCC, while Jelani Moreno had 20 points. Kennyh Hardeman (14), De’Vante Mateo (11) and Nick Butler (11) also hit double figures for the Raiders.
After winning the Region III title to earn its spot at the national tournament on Feb. 26, FMCC hadn’t played since.
The Raiders got out of the gates slowly Wednesday, falling behind 11-0 before Hardeman scored FMCC’s first basket of the game with 16:06 left in the first half.
“It was a tough way to start, falling behind 11-0. We had some jitters,” Gallup said.
The Raiders pulled to within 11-6 before DuPage opened up the lead back to double digits.
The Chaparrals led by as many as 17 points before taking a 51-37 lead into the second half.
DuPage maintained its advantage early in the second half before FMCC roared back with a 20-2 run to take a 65-59 lead with 11:30 to play.
“We’ve been resilient all year,” Gallup said.
The game was tight the rest of the way, as there were 10 lead changes or ties over the final 8:21.
FMCC led 80-76 with 1:54 left in regulation after a basket by Kirton before Nelson answered for DuPage with 1:39 to play to make it 80-78.
With 22 seconds left, Butler hit 1 of 2 free throws to give FMCC an 81-78 lead.
Gaston tied the game and forced overtime with a 3-pointer with 7.8 seconds to play.
“We missed a free throw late, and they hit a huge 3-pointer to force overtime,” Gallup said. “Credit to them. They hit some big shots when they needed them.”
In the extra session, the teams traded the lead five times before the Chaparrals scored the final four points to secure the victory.
“I’m proud of my guys’ effort,” Gallup said. “We battled back and fought hard the whole way.”
FMCC (20-8 overall) will face seventh-seeded Butler (20-5) in a consolation bracket game Thursday at noon.
“It’s tough to regroup after a game like this,” Gallup said. “We’ve got to bounce back and it’s a quick turnaround.”
DuPage (22-13) advances to face third-seeded Brookdale (27-3) in the quarterfinals Thursday at 8 p.m.
Halftime score: DuPage led 51-37. DuPage scoring: Gaston 9-13-33, Walsh 1-2-4, Elliott 6-2-15, Nelson 5-4-14, Tate 8-0-16, White 1-0-2, Gothard 2-0-5. FMCC scoring: Mateo 4-3-11, Hardeman 7-0-14, Moreno 7-2-20, Kirton 13-3-29, Butler 4-2-11. Scoring totals: DuPage 32-21-89, FMCC 35-10-85.