Men's Basketball Beats the Buzzer To Clinch Sectional Trophy
Monday, March 11, 2024

ANGOLA – The Trine University men's basketball team was not shaken by a deficit for a majority of their Sectional Final contest against the University of Wisconsin-Platteville on Saturday night. The team knocked down clutch free throws to get to overtime and buried a game-winner as the buzzer sounded to secure their spot in the NCAA Tournament Championship Semifinals.

The Thunder advance to Fort Wayne, Indiana to play Trinity College out of Connecticut on Thursday, March 14. More information about that game will be available in the coming days. Trine continues to build upon their program record for wins in a season at 27-4 while the Pioneers of Platteville end their 2023-24 season at 26-5.

"I thought it was an incredibly well-played game by two really good teams," Head Coach Brooks Miller mentioned. "The playmaking that went on tonight was incredible. There were so many significant plays made by both sides."

Platteville went on an early scoring run and claimed a 13-3 lead to begin the game. Nate Tucker crashed the offensive glass and kept the Thunder afloat, and a 10-0 run sparked by a three by Aidan Smylie gave Trine a lead at 21-20.

Once again, the Pioneers battled to take a double-digit lead at 34-23 with five minutes remaining in the first half and a key three just before halftime put the visiting team ahead 42-34 at the break.

The lead for Platteville grew to a game-high 14 points at 48-34, forcing Trine into a timeout to stop the bleeding. Tucker came out of the huddle and knocked down a three-point try, but it was Drew Moore who came up huge down the stretch with an 8-0 run himself that helped get the team to within five at 58-53 with just over ten minutes remaining.

Fred Garland would find Cortez Garland inside for two and Fred Garland made it a two-point game at 65-63 with five minutes on the clock. Platteville would go on a run again and built what appeared to be an insurmountable lead at 77-67 with 1:41 left. A quick 8-0 run for Trine with a dunk by Emmanuel Megnanglo trimmed the Pioneers' lead down to two with 17 seconds remaining.

After going 1-for-2 at the charity stripe, Platteville was sent back there with a chance to go up two-possessions, but a miss on the front end of a one-and-one allowed Moore to step to the line with one second remaining. He would make the first and intentionally miss the second, only to grab his own miss and get fouled going back up for a putback. Moore settled in and calmly buried two at the line to send the game to overtime.

"We ran a miss play," Moore explained. "I saw everyone was going inside so I ran to the outside and followed my shot."

In the extra period, the Pioneers went ahead by one 83-82 thanks to a make from distance, but Smylie countered with a three of his own to make the score 85-83. The team got a stop defensively and Cortez Garland made one of two, but a foul put Platteville at the line for three and a chance to tie it. The opponents would do just that, leaving eight seconds on the clock, just enough time for Cortez Garland to send the MTI Center into a frenzy with a game-winning mid-range jumper.

"All year we've talked about staying the course and I feel like we've done that," Cortez Garland stated in the post-game press conference. "The big plays are out there and everybody made some big plays down the stretch. Once I stepped back [on the final shot] it was a rhythm shot for me."

Moore led the scoring for the Thunder with a season-high 24 points and 12-of-14 at the free throw line. Fred Garland added 20 points and Cortez Garland with 18 points. Tucker was in double figures off the bench with 13. Smylie and Megnanglo led with nine rebounds each. As a team, Trine shot 32-of-62 (51.6%) from the field and held the Pioneers to 34-of-77 (44.2%). Platteville had the lead in the game for over 40 minutes, but it was the Thunder who came out on top.