Seconds away from a monumental win, and Nick Marini stole it away.
Schenectady twice erased big deficits before Marini’s steal near midcourt and ensuing layup gave Christian Brothers Academy a 47-46 Big 10 win Tuesday night before a stunned crowd at the Pat Riley Sports Center.
The Patriots had strung together seven straight points to move ahead and could have had more, but Towan Hamlin missed the front end of a one-and-one, which set the wheels in motion for a most unexpected ending.
“This is where we’ve got to get over the hump,” said Schenectady coach Eric Loudis. “My job is to put them in a position to win. We were right there. They have to finish at the end.”
Marini’s theft and layup with 3.1 seconds left gave CBA a 47-46 lead, and Tyrell Ramsey’s steal on a long pass that followed sealed the victory for the league’s only unbeaten team.
CBA (6-0, 6-0) has now beaten Schenectady (3-2, 3-2) 15 consecutive times in a streak that began in the 2005-06 season.
“I think Marini’s play at the end and how he finished was terrific,” said CBA coach Dave Doemel, who saw Marini, a junior guard, collect 13 points, four assists and five steals. “I can’t say enough about his overall game. Nick does a lot of things that sometimes go unnoticed.”
His steal of Cody Shafer’s long inbounds pass from under the Schenectady basket took place in wide-open space, though. Marini tipped the ball over defender Shanti Moses, picked up the dribble and went in for an uncontested hoop.
“In the huddle, we talked about denying every pass,” said Marini. “Luckily, they tossed it up in the air, and I got a hand on it.”
“Five guys did their job defending. They all had a job to do,” said Doemel. “I think their guy was open for a quick second, and Nick did a great job of closing on the ball.”
Greig Stire snared a rebound after Hamlin missed the front end of a one-and-one, Moses stole the ball near the Patriots’ basket and Schenectady was given a timeout with 7.9 seconds to go.
“That is not where the ball was supposed to go [on Shafer’s pass], and after their kid stole the ball, we had a foul to give,” Loudis said. “Mental mistakes. It comes down to inexperience.
“The effort was great. That’s never been an issue. The boys play hard.”
Schenectady also rallied late last Friday, slicing a 16-point second-half deficit to seven, before sustaining a 52-39 home loss to Troy.
“Schenectady was flying. When they get in transition, they’re very difficult to stop. They take it to the basket and find open guys,” said Doemel. “That’s the second game in a row they got it going and battled back. That’s part of their mettle. No quit there.”
Schenectady turned an 11-2 first-quarter deficit into a 17-16 second-quarter lead behind Darius Macon’s eight points. CBA worked its advantage to 10 at the half, and a runner by Marini and a putback basket by Stire made it 34-20 early in the third.
“It was a game of runs,” said Marini. “We went on ours, and they went on theirs.”
Schenectady pulled even at 35-35 on Shafer’s three late in the third period, and a short jumper by Randall Symes, another three by Shafer and a layup by Moses gave the Pats their 46-45 lead with 2:07 remaining in the contest.
“They hit a couple of shots to start the second half,” said Loudis. “I called a timeout and told the guys, ‘If we can get it to four or five at the end of the third, we’ll be right there.’ ”
Before Moses put the Pats ahead with his only basket, they had opportunties to score more, yet went 2-for-7 from the free-throw line. It was a stat that stung even more afterward.
“We practice free throws every single day,” said Loudis. “We’ve got to keep working on it.”
Stire had 10 points and seven rebounds for the reigning Section II Class AA champions, and Dan Owens scored all seven of his points in the final quarter. Owens’ runner and putback basket soon after gave the Brothers a 45-39 lead.
Macon led Schenectady with 12 points, five steals and five blocks. Symes scored seven of his nine points in the second half, and Shafer netted all of his eight in the second half to go with five assists.
“We did some awfully good things. We got a 10-point lead for a reason, but we’ve got to get better,” said Doemel, whose team is ranked No. 8 in the state. “We didn’t handle the ball at times, and we took some quick shots when we got it down there.
“The physical effort is amazing. Now we’ve got to get the mental approach to match. When we do that we’ll be pretty good.”
Stire scored six points to help CBA grab its 11-2 lead, and Tyrell Ramsey came off the bench to deliver all six of his points when the Brothers closed the second quartrer with a 14-3 spurt.
Marini 6-0-13, Ramsey 1-3-6, Robinson 1-1-3, Owens 3-0-7, Brundige 2-0-5, Stire 5-0-10, Renauld 0-3-3. Totals: 18-7-47.
Gooden-Prunti 0-2-2, Moses 1-0-2, Hamlin 0-2-2, Macon 6-0-12, Shafer 3-0-8, Stanford 3-0-7, Symes 4-1-9, Wheelings 2-0-4. Totals: 19-5-46.
CBA 12 18 5 12 — 47
Schenectady 10 10 15 11 — 46
Three-point goals: Marini, Ramsey, Owens, Brundige, Shafer 2, Stanford.