All of the momentum Schenectady had built for the playoffs was sucked away by a scrappy LaSalle Institute team Friday night at the Pat Riley Sports Center.
Ryan Bielawa nailed a tying three late in the fourth quarter, and Brandon Holmes sank all six of his foul shots in overtime as the Cadets ended the Patriots’ regular season with a 61-53 Big 10 win.
“It’s been a tough season for these guys, but they’ve stayed with it,” said LaSalle coach Steve Sgambelluri. “We have talked an awful lot about resiliency and playing hard for four quarters. Today we had to put five together. It was good to see. It was a good sign.”
LaSalle (5-10, 5-12) got a bit of payback after losing to Schenectady early last month, 54-52, when Tobias Holmes drilled a three-pointer in the final seconds.
“We lost to them by a heartbreaker at home,” said LaSalle’s Holmes, a freshman guard who finished with 12 points. “This feels great.”
Holmes made four foul shots and Charles Chung added two more to put Schenectady away, after the Patriots’ Holmes dropped in a layup to cut the host’s deficit to 55-53 with 56 seconds left.
“Before the game, we talked about this being an important night,” said Schenectady coach Eric Loudis, whose team, despite the setback, will host a Section II tournament game. “I told the guys, ‘Let’s get a good victory, and have momentum for the sectionals.’ I can’t put the ball in the basket for them.”
Schenectady (10-6, 11-7) had an off shooting night, which included a 1-for-18 effort from three-point range. After Bielawa knotted the contest at 48 with with 28 seconds to go, Brandon Langston missed a three just before the buzzer sounded.
“We didn’t get out in transition. We missed bunnies. We missed threes,” said Loudis. “Nothing fired tonight.”
Schenectady’s Jan. 7 triumph at LaSalle came during a four-game winning streak, and the Patriots had prevailed in seven of nine games before Friday’s regular-season finale. Senior forward Keishaun Wheelings was a bright spot for the hosts, reaching career highs with 22 points and 21 rebounds before fouling out in OT.
“It’s very disappointing,” said Wheelings. “We weren’t hitting our shots, but think about it. We haven’t lost two in a row yet. We’ll go to practice, evaluate, do the things we need to do, and try not to make the mistakes we made the next time.”
After LaSalle’s Steve Jordan missed two free throws with 35 seconds left in overtime, the Pats failed to box out and Chung grabbed an offensive rebound. That led to two free throws by Holmes, which started the Cadets 6-0 game-ending run.
“I work hard on my free throws in practice,” said Holmes. “I just followed my routine.”
“He [Holmes] played under control in an energetic environment against a good team,” said Sgambelluri.
Bielawa led LaSalle with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Jordan had nine points and six steals, Chung had eight points, and Xyier Woodard had seven points and nine rebounds.
Woodard’s foul shot had LaSalle up, 45-44, with 1:53 left in the fourth quarter.
“This has been a hard place to play since I was in high school,” said Sgambelluri, who graduated from Bishop Maginn in 1997. “We had guys step up and make plays.”
Wheelings scored on a putback and, after Randall Symes came up with a steal, Wheelings had another putback basket to nudge the Pats ahead, 48-45.
“The majority of our points were hustle points,” said Loudis.
Keenan Chandler’s foul shot gave Schenectady a 51-50 lead in overtime, and after Woodard tied it from the line, Holmes put LaSalle on top for good with his first two. While Holmes was 6-for-6 from the stripe in the extra session, the rest of the Cadets were 5-for-10.
Chung 3-2-8, Holmes 2-6-12, Bielawa 5-2-16, A. Debonis 1-1-3, Jordan 2-4-9, Delollo 2-0-4, Woodward 2-3-7, J. Debonis 1-0-2. Totals: 18-18-61.
Chandler 0-3-3, Hamlin 1-0-2, Holmes 6-1-13, Langston 1-2-5, Lind 1-0-2, Symes 2-2-6, Wheelings 9-4-22. Totals: 20-12-53.
LaSalle 8 14 12 14 13 — 61
Schenectady 9 10 14 15 5 — 53
Three-point goals: Holmes 2, Bielawa 4, Jordan, Langston.