Thanksgiving eve at McCamish Pavilion featured a battle of two Atlanta teams in the Georgia State Panthers and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. It took quadruple (four) overtime to decide a winner and it was the Panthers that prevailed 123-120.
So much was on the line for both teams in their first game of the season.
The Yellow Jackets wanted to start the season strong after finishing 17-14 last season and having a self-imposed postseason ban. The offense has been a huge concern for the Yellow Jackets in the past two seasons and they wanted to use this game to show what they were capable of.
The Panthers needed this game to prove further that they are the team of Atlanta. Not only that, after finishing last season with a home loss in the Sun-Belt championship to in-state rival Georgia Southern, they needed to prove that they can live up to their hype of competing and winning the Sun-Belt and making another NCAA tournament appearance and run. All in all, in this game they wanted to show that they can win and compete with the heavyweights of college basketball.
“I’m really proud of our group,” said Lanier after the quadruple overtime win. “We were determined that we were going to play our style and see if we could wear them down.”
The Panthers had four players with 20 plus points in this game which is a team record. Those players were Roberts (26) who led all Panthers in scoring, Nsoseme and Allen who both had 22 points and Williams who finished with 21 points.
The Panthers also set records with the most points scored in school history and their first third and quadruple overtime games.
The Panthers led by 11 points midway into the second half, but the Yellow Jackets came back strong. A quick 6-0 run concluding with Yellow Jackets guard Bubba Parham nailing a three pointer, which tied the game at 59 with 9:34 to go in the second half.
Unwilling to give the Yellow Jackets the lead, the Panthers quickly went up by five before the Yellow Jackets made another run. This time forward Moses Wright converted on a layup while guard Michael Devoe converted on a fast break three pointer, tying the game at 70.
With 4:34 remaining in regulation, Wright made both of his free throws giving the Yellow Jackets their first lead since early in the first half at 72-70.
Panthers guard Corey Allen responded with a pullup jumper, tying the game at 72.
Mihcael Devoe made a layup to put the Jackets up 77-74 with 1:58 to go. Panthers guard Justin Roberts answered with a three pointer tying the game at 77.
The Yellow Jackets had one last chance to get a bucket in closing seconds. Devoe missed it as both teams went into the first of four overtimes.
Yellow Jackets guard Alvarado opened overtime with a putback layup, putting the Yellow Jackets on top by two.
Roberts was aggressive on offense since hitting the late three in the fourth quarter, responding with another three pointer to put the Panthers up by one.
Both teams traded baskets until Panthers guard Kane Williams made two free throws tying the game at 83.
This time, the Panthers had a chance to get the game winning bucket in closing seconds and the ball was in the hands of their team captain Kane Williams.
Williams forced his way to the basket but was unable to get the layup to go as time expired.
The second overtime featured Alvarado attacking the rim quickly off the tip as the Yellow Jackets striked first. Panthers forward (Cincinnati transfer) Eliel Nsoseme answered with a tough layup tying the game at 85.
Allen got hot for the Panthers in the second overtime, hitting two consecutive threes as the Panthers went up 91-88 with 2:32 to go.
Roberts also contributed to the Panthers’ offense, specifically from the free throw line.
He made both of his free throws putting the Panthers ahead 96-94 with 46 seconds to go.
It looked like the Panthers were going to close out and get a close win but Alvarado had different plans. Taking advantage of his size, Alvarado attacked Roberts by driving to the basket and drawing a foul. Alvarado drained both free throws, tying the game at 96.
Seven seconds remained and the Panthers had a chance to get a game winning bucket. The Panthers put themselves in a great position to win as Roberts got a good look for three but failed to cash it in as the buzzer went off.
The third overtime followed with the Yellow Jackets striking first again, this time from the free throw line. Wright made both of his free throws to lead 98-96.
Roberts continued to answer throughout the game, this time making a three pointer putting the Panthers ahead 99-98.
Trailing 105-103 with 1:38 left in overtime, Panthers forward Jojo Toppin (transfer from Georgia) turned the ball over with a no-call foul which upset Panthers head coach Rob Lanier.
Lanier’s frustration led to a technical foul in which Alvarado made both technical free throw shots to lead 107-103 with 1:21 to go.
The Panthers were in trouble, down two possessions and needing a defensive stop to give themselves a chance on the offensive end.
Williams stepped up defensively, stealing the ball from Devoe and converting on a fast break layup cutting the Yellow Jackets lead to two.
A foul by Williams on the Yellow Jackets ensuing offensive possession put Alvarado to the line again where he drained both free throws. The Panthers trailed 109-105 with 21 seconds remaining.
The pressure was on the Panthers again as they needed a bucket to give themselves a chance of tying the game up.
Roberts continued to find a way to answer, this time forcing a deep three pointer as it hit the backboard and went through the net, making the score 109-108 with eight seconds remaining.
The Panthers were forced to foul Alvarado after failing to force a turnover or jump ball.
If Alvarado makes both free throws, it is a three point game with six seconds remaining. If he only makes one, it is a two point game. Yellow Jackets players and fans were confident he would make both free throws as he did all night. This time, Alvarado made the first but missed the second giving the Panthers a chance to either win or tie the game.
As Williams rebounded the basketball and pushed the ball down the court while also driving to the basket, he found freshman guard Collin Moore who cut to the basket and was fouled by Wright with 1.6 seconds to go.
The freshman who needed to make both free throws to extend the game into a fourth overtime delivered, hitting both free throws as the ball hit the bottom of the net.
The game was tied at 110 as the Yellow Jackets had a chance to get a quick, last minute bucket.
The Yellow Jackets tried a long full court pass to Wright but it failed as time expired.
As the fourth overtime began, it was the Panthers who scored first. Moore scored on a putback after Williams missed a three pointer.
Both teams traded buckets until they were tied at 116 with 1:47 to go. This time, the Panthers made a defensive play and it was their team captain, Williams.
Williams converted off of Devoe’s turnover making a layup to lead by two.
Alvarado turned the ball over on the next offensive possession and Williams was fouled with 39 seconds remaining.
Williams made one of his two free throws putting the Panthers lead at 119-116.
Freshman point guard Evan Johnson fouled Alvarado on the ensuing possession giving him another chance at the charity strike.
Alvarado made both of his free throws making the score 119-118 with 30 seconds remaining.
As the Panthers inbounded the basketball on their offensive possession, Roberts was fouled and went to the free throw line.
Roberts converted on both of his free throw attempts as the score was 121-118 with 21 seconds remaining.
Devoe went full court and made a driving layup, cutting the Panthers lead to one.
This time, the Yellow Jackets fouled Corey Allen who made one of his two free throws giving the Panthers a 122-120 lead with 15 seconds remaining.
Alvarado turned the ball over on the Yellow Jackets next offensive possession forcing them to foul Toppin.
Three seconds remained in the game and Toppin had the chance to officially ice the game if he made both free throws. He made one of his two free throws but it was enough and the Yellow Jackets attempted a half court shot that had no chance of going in, giving the Panthers the 123-120 victory.
The Panthers will be back in action Friday at home as they host Toccoa Falls.