In the final game of the regular season, Kristians Feierbergs was the hero, scoring a tip-in at the buzzer to give the University of Maine men’s basketball a 66-64 victory over Bryant in front of an electric crowd at Memorial Gym.
UMaine will play a road game against University of Massachusetts Lowell on Saturday in the opening round of the America East playoffs at 4 p.m.
With 20 seconds left, Clayton brought the ball up the court and found Ja’Shonte Wright-McLeish for a 3-pointer that rimmed out before Feierbergs jumped, caught the rebound and while fading away drilled the basket before the buzzer sounded. It’s UMaine’s third win in four games as the Black Bears finish the season with a 13-16 record, 7-9 in conference.
Coach Chris Markwood didn’t want to call a timeout on the final play and just wanted to control the possession. The Black Bears ran a screen at the top to try and get Clayton or Gedi Juozapaitis open, but the ball found Wright-McLeish wide-open at the left wing.
The 3-pointer missed but Feierbergs followed with the tip in, a shot he jokingly called “just a practice shot.”
“It was amazing, emotional,” Feierbergs said. “It’s amazing because you don’t get these moments a lot in this life. With the atmosphere and the football dudes here supporting.”
Kellen Tynes, who finished with 12 points, six rebounds, four assists and a steal that tied the UMaine single-season steals record at 95, said Feierbergs was the “Savior.”
“I owe him a steak dinner, or something,” Tynes said. “Our whole team has been doing this, sticking to the end.”
Over the last 11 games, UMaine has gone 7-4 in conference after starting 0-5. The Black Bears are playing their best basketball when it counts.
“It feels good,” Markwood said. “They’ve worked really hard and they’ve stuck to it all the way through, even the adversity and losses. When you stay connected, good things will happen and that’s what they’re saying.”
Juozapaitis led the way with 19 points for the Black Bears. He was one of three seniors, along with Fofo Adetogun and Ata Turgut, who started the game for the Black Bears on their senior night.
“I thought those three guys were great,” Markwood said of the seniors. “Fofo was big for us, Ata had to play a lot down the stretch because Kristians was in foul trouble and Gedi was being Gedi. I expect it from him.”
UMaine’s Kellen Tynes scored a reverse layup on a backdoor cut with 2:30 left to put UMaine back up four, 62-58.
With 1:15 to play, Juozapaitis grabbed a steal under the Bryant hoop and UMaine was able to find Turgut for an easy floater while Kvonn Cramer of Bryant was laying down hurt on the other end.
On the next UMaine possession, Bryant’s Sherif Gross-Bullock fell with an injury while on the other end of the court Clayton was fouled. Clayton missed the front end of the one-and-one and Bryant’s Antwan Walker scored with 39.9 seconds left to cut the deficit to two.
Cramer drilled a layup with 20 seconds left to tie the game at 64-64.
UMaine went on an early 11-2 run that was capped off by a layup through traffic that gave the Black Bears a 16-9 lead with 11:25 to play. Later in the quarter, Bryant went on its own 9-0 run that tied the contest back up at 25-25 with just-under five minutes left.
Juozapaitis and Tynes both hit baskets at the end of the first half but a buzzer-beating layup from Gross-Bullock pulled the Bulldogs within 32-31.
Bryant and UMaine went blow for blow with Feierbergs and Wright-McLeish answering Bryant baskets with layups of their own. Juozapaitis also hit a 3-pointer early in the second half and three minutes in, UMaine had a 39-35 advantage.
Juozapaitis continued his huge senior night performance with a right-handed fastbreak dunk that gave UMaiune a four-point lead. Three minutes later after a Bryant basket, Earl Timberlake fouled Adetogun hard away from the ball and earned himself a flagrant foul. Adetogun made both free throws and gained UMaine the lead back, 49-47 with 11:33 to play.
Juozapaitis made another tough layup in traffic a minute later and then on the other end, Tynes blocked a Bryant shot and Feierbergs found Wright-McLeish for a fastbreak layup and a 54-48 lead with 9:30 to play.
With 5:10 remaining, Tynes gave UMaine a four-point lead with a shot-clock beating 3-pointer in the right corner, followed two possessions later by a Juozapaitis layup on the right side that kept the Black bears’ advantage at 60-56.
“I think that whoever comes next we are ready,” Feierbergs said. “Over the two months of the conference season we have built and we’ve stepped so much higher. We will fight through anybody and fight through walls for any of us. It’s a great turnaround.”
Tynes scored a reverse layup on a backdoor cut with 2:30 left to put UMaine back up four, 62-58.
Bryant beat Maine by 18 at home on Feb. 1.
“The coaches, Markwood, we had a great scout today and made changes and it all worked out,” Tynes added.