Coast Guard men continue torrid start by outlasting Merchant Marine in OT
New London — They rushed the floor Tuesday night at Merriman Gym, all the happy cadets who had just watched their team complete a historical three days within Coast Guard lore and legend.
Sunday: Win by 15 in the Mr. G's Bowl at next door neighbor Connecticut College, a geographical rival, if nothing else.
Tuesday: Win in overtime against time-honored rival Merchant Marine Academy that included a rally from a six-point deficit late in regulation.
"We're opening some eyes, I think," sophomore Packy Witkowski was saying after the 93-88 victory.
Witkowski, whose shooting range appears to include portions of Route 32, is thinking correctly. The Bears are 5-1 and have a year to savor wins against their two rivals.
"We really stress that every game we play is big — because it's the next one on the schedule," Coast Guard coach Kevin Jaskiewicz said. "The last two — three games, really — we've played we've won down the stretch. Last year, we lost 10 games by 10 or fewer points. We're winning those games now and learning about ourselves. With four sophomores and a freshman starting. We're making progress."
The Bears held an 89-88 lead in the final 30 seconds of overtime. Except their possession looked like a fire drill. The shot clock ticked mercilessly into single digits, leaving Witkowski with the ball in his hands and no other choice but to shoot a (very) contested 3-pointer.
So he did. With hands flailing all around him.
He made it anyway.
"I was just trying to make a play," Witkowski said. "I knew it was going in."
"Just like we drew it up," Jaskiewicz cracked.
Witkowski made his first four shots, missed eight of his next nine and then made his last four 3-pointers, two of which came in overtime.
He made a pair of 3-pointers in the final three minutes of regulation, helping the Bears overcome a 77-71 deficit.
"Losing 10 games by 10 points or less, I think that experience is showing," Witkowski said.
Justin Kane finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds, highlighted by a natural 3-point play to begin overtime, snapping a 79-79 tie.
Noah Baldez had 17 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists, including 15 points and 10 rebounds in the second half.
The Bears needed them all, too. Merchant Marine made 14 3-pointers. James Walsh led the Mariners (2-2) with 20 points.
"Sunday we played a very tough game against a rival," Jaskiewicz said. "We certainly could have lost tonight, down six late. But we didn't because we were determined. A terrific win."
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