If anyone that wears their heart on their sleeve it’s Richmond Oilers head basketball coach Rob Collins. And on Wednesday night there was no doubt the unease he felt as his team lost in overtime on Senior Night to the Hercules Titans 51-49.
As the final buzzer sounded, and after both team shook hands at mid-court, Collins took his team to the locker room and quickly shut the door. The loss was the Oilers second in a row, and with only two games remaining, dropped them three back of first-place Hercules.
If there was any doubt as to what upset Collins and his coaching staff after the game, one only had to listen to the catcalls raining from the bleachers in the direction of the referees.
Richmond’s last significant lead came early in the second quarter when they were up 17-12. But Titan’s forward Jovell Vance made the last five points of the half, including a buzzer-beater that banked off the backboard, for a 23-21 Hercules lead.
Richmond would not see the lead again until the game was miraculously sent into overtime. With eight seconds left in regulation and Hercules up 43-41, Collins called a quick time out to ice Titan’s forward Jovell Vance as he stepped to the line to shoot two free throws.
The timeout worked. Vance’s shot missed and gave Oilers fans more reason to line up closer to the court.
Again, Collins called another time out before Vance was able to get his second attempt off. The voodoo worked. Vance’s attempt clanged off the rim and Oilers forward Devonte Anderson grabbed the rebound and in the blink of an eye went coast to coast.
Anderson was fouled on the drive and stepped to the line with little more than two seconds left for a one-and-one. Still trailing by two points, Anderson’s shot would miss, but out of nowhere Oilers forward Xavier Lane would grab the missed shot, and go up strong to tie the game. Fractions of a second were left on the clock, and Hercules was unable to get another shot off.
In overtime things looked promising for Richmond. Senior guard Chaidy Lam nailed a quick 3-pointer and Xavier Lane went to the free throw line 60 seconds later. And with only two minutes left in the game Richmond held a 4-point lead.
But several fouls allowed Hercules to chip away and the Titans eventually took the lead with 2 seconds remaining.
The contest was played before one of the largest crowds of the season, as parents, friends and teachers celebrated the last home game of the season. Prior to tip off, eight fourth-year players and more than 10 senior cheerleaders walked to mid-court, escorted by loved ones, while having their names called out over the loudspeaker.
The game was supposed to have a storybook ending, but time after time the Oilers turned the ball over during critical moments, and found themselves out of position against Hercules’ 1-3-1 zone defense.
“[The zone defense] threw them off a little bit,” said Hercules head coach Drew Evans after the game. “Their energy level was outstanding tonight, we couldn’t keep up in man. We gave up a lot of offensive rebounds but in the end we were able to capitalize on some of the things they didn’t do.”
After the postgame meeting ended, Richmond players walked out of the closed locker room, some holding Senior Night flowers, looking as if they had gone to a funeral.
Senior guard Chaidy Lam stood with his family near the 3-point line where he almost won the game said it was a very intense game and very competitive. “We expected that,” he said about the back-and-forth nature of the game. “We weren’t expecting an easy slide. We expected them to battle back and I think they expected us to battle back as well.”
Senior center Mirwaise Qader, who’s going to George Mason University in Virginia next year on an academic scholarship, said the team’s postgame meeting inside the locker room was “an intense moment.”
Collins asked not to be interviewed.