Nov. 12—CUMBERLAND — Allegany College of Maryland won a physical, down to the wire overtime thriller over Harford 87-80 on Saturday at Bob Kirk Arena.
The Trojans (4-0) didn't play their best game, but stepped up when it mattered most, especially on defense.
"Ugly basketball game by all accounts," ACM head coach Tommie Reams said. "We were clearly feeling the game with Niagara yesterday. I thought we looked slow and sluggish at times. That led to a lot of mental errors, the timing and continuity was off. There's no doubt we were playing hard, we just weren't playing well."
It was closely contested from the start. The first half featured five lead changes and three ties. The biggest lead for either team was five points.
The Trojans struggled with ball handling as many passes weren't caught clean and many dribbles slipped out of hands and led to turnovers and easy scores on the other end. Allegany committed eight turnovers in the first half.
"The mental side of it is guys not having the discipline to do the little things once they got tired," Reams said. "Shortened gaps, changing angles, not telegraphing passes."
While the offense struggled to open the game, the defense kept them in it.
The Trojans forced eight turnovers with Cam Brown and Brian Ayafor each contributing two steals.
Brown turned his second steal off an inbound into a dunk to put Allegany up 33-27 with 45 seconds left in the half.
"Defensively, I thought we were solid again," Reams said. "We always talk about holding teams to around 70 points a night in regulation. We held that team to 72. I thought we had some very good defensive times and I thought we had some absolutely brutal rotations where guys knew what they were supposed to be doing and didn't do it."
After Brown nearly recorded another steal seconds later, Donovan Miller hit a deep 3-pointer to cut the Fighting Owls (1-1) halftime deficit to 33-30.
The second half was more of the same, with a lot of physical play on both sides. It featured four ties and three lead changes.
"In terms of flow of the game, I thought our guys did a really good job," Reams said. "They didn't get chippy, they didn't react. They played through a lot of that physicality. But at the same time, it really took its toll on us."
The Trojans took their biggest lead of the second half with 6:26 left. Brown recorded a steal and passed to Lamont Jones. He lobbed it off the backboard to Brown for a layup that gave Allegany a 64-57 lead.
Harford responded with a 10-6 run led by Chandler Johnson who scored five points and added a steal.
The Fighting Owls cut it to 70-67 with 2:54 left. Down 72-69 with 26.5 seconds left in regulation, Harford took a timeout.
Ty Williams set up Jadyn Williams who hit a deep 3-pointer to tie the game with 12 seconds remaining.
"A couple bad rotations defensively and miscommunication," Reams said of what allowed Harford to get back into the game. "The three that tied it at the end, we missed executed a concept. We ran a double on a wing that shouldn't have happened which allowed the rotation of the basketball to happen to the open shooter."
Allegany took a timeout and set up a potential go-ahead shot. Brown took a step-back jumper, but air-balled to send the game to overtime.
The Trojans scored eight unanswered points to open overtime. It was capped off by a steal from Brown who set up Tyson Oghene for a dunk to push Allegany's lead to 80-72.
"That momentum was huge," Reams said. "You could tell that kinda broke Harford's back. You could see their momentum drop, you could see the attitudes change."
Harford started to foul, and the Trojans took advantage. Allegany went 10 of 16 at the line in overtime led by Jones who was 5 for 6.
Brown led all scorers with 21 points, adding seven assists, five steals, four rebounds and two blocks.
"What impressed me about Cam's game was the quietness in which he scored," Reams said. "I had no idea he had 21 points, it was a very quiet game. But I think part of that was he was playing in the flow, getting out in transition. Defensively, he was our anchor at times."
Oghene scored 20 points including six 3-pointers with four rebounds and three steals.
Jones scored 14 points with four steals and three rebounds. He scored nine in the second half and overtime and had three steals in the second half.
"I can't praise Lamont enough," Reams said. "We get Lamont to the line, he hits several free throws for us. Put a ton of on-ball pressure on their guards to really speed them up and make them uncomfortable."
Ayafor added 12 points with seven rebounds, two steals and a block.
Jadyn Williams led the Fighting Owls with 15 points while Ty Williams scored 13. Johnson scored 12 and Miller and Paul Mason each had 10.
Allegany hosts Howard on Sunday at 6 p.m. to conclude the Personal Best Athletics Classic. The Trojans will get a few days off before facing No. 7 SUNY Sullivan in New Rochelle, New York on Saturday at 3 p.m.
Six of Allegany's first 10 opponents are currently ranked. The Trojans will play five consecutive games against ranked opponents.
Reams said he felt it's more of an advantage to play difficult opponents early in the season.
"I think if you wanna be great, you gotta do great things," Reams said. "You don't get better by doing mediocre activities. I think our ability to play against really good teams gives us a chance to really develop and see what we need to work on. Understand we're probably gonna take some on the chin, but our ability to work through adversity and develop is what's gonna make us great in the long run."
Jordan Kendall is a Sports Writer for the Cumberland Times-News. Email him with scores and story suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.