It didn’t take one or two overtime periods, but three for the visiting Morehouse College Maroon Tigers to win Thursday night’s game at Clark Atlanta University 97-96. The victory leaves Morehouse all alone at the top of the SIAC East standings at 14-1.
The Panthers are now 14-2 and will have to wait until Feb. 22 to get their revenge.
Morehouse senior guard Tyrius Walker, who led all scorers with 27 points and 71 minutes of play, made two free-throws after rebounding his own miss from the free-throw line moments earlier. Walker was 11-16 from the line during the game but came up with the most important pair when it mattered most.
Upon walking into the post-game press conference following his team’s loss Clark Atlanta head coach Darrell Walker, a former NBA guard and head coach, called the triple-overtime affair “an instant classic.”
Morehouse head coach Grady Brewer, who spoke to media before Walker, said, “We were both hungry,” referring to both teams, “and it just worked out that we got to eat one last time. This team refuses to lose.”
Morehouse came out of the locker room like they weren’t going to have to worry about losing after going ahead early 10-5, 20-6 and after a three-pointer from junior guard James Walker (who was 6-9 from distance for the game en route to 22 points), 26-9.
With 5:52 remaining in the first half Morehouse senior guard Martravious Little went down with what looked like a knee injury and Clark Atlanta took advantage to cut the Maroon Tiger leads to eight points with 3:29 left to play in the half.
A 6-1 Clark run capped by a three-pointer and a free-throw from 6’11’ senior forward Akil Douglas made the score 36-34 with less than two minutes on the game clock.
Morehouse closed the first half with a 6-1 run and a three-pointer by Tyrius Walker at the halftime buzzer to go ahead 42-35 at the half.
The second half belonged to Clark Atlanta however as juniors, Jamal Pollydore (13 points) and Shelvick Henry, Jr. (18 points before leaving the game with what looked like a concussion) took over the scoring for the Panthers early in the half.
After being down by as much as 11 points early, the Panthers would also get some offensive assistance from senior forward Damien Davis (16 points) to get within two points again as he scored eight of Clark’s 10 points to get them there.
Two more Douglas free -throws would have the game tied at 68 with three minutes remaining in the game. Neither team could score at the end of regulation despite both receiving a number of opportunities.
“We had a couple chances to win that game at the end,” acknowledged coach Walker.
Both teams scored 10 points during the first overtime period with Morehouse sophomore guard and Atlanta native Michael Olmert (12 points, five assists, one turnover) making a layup with no time left to tie the game at 80.
Clark Atlanta got a pleasant surprise from an underclassman as well as redshirt freshman Mark Burton, Jr.(five points, 1-6 FGs) who played a career-high 23 minutes after a number of Panthers fouled out. Burton hit a three-pointer at the end of the second overtime to tie the game at 88.
“He’s instant offense off the bench,” said coach Walker of the reserve guard.
In the third overtime, the teams would exchange baskets to start before Clark junior guard Jalen Mitchell (11 points) would make a free-throw to give the Panthers a 96-95 advantage. Burton had another look from the same spot where he tied the game in the second overtime but missed following the Walker free-throws.
Morehouse seniors Duby Maduegbunam and Jordan Wallace added 13 and 10 points, respectively.
The Maroon Tigers will close the season with four consecutive home games starting on Wednesday, Feb. 13 against Livingstone College. The Panthers will be off for the next eight days before hosting Fort Valley State University on Saturday, Feb. 17.