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John Carroll vs. Mount Union men's basketball: Blue Streaks survive in OT to win OAC tournament

Feb. 24—With blue and gold confetti flying everywhere, the John Carroll men's basketball team was served a celebration worthy of a classic finish.

Was it ever.

Luke Chicone of Mentor made two free throws with 0.4 seconds remaining in regulation, Jerry Higgins connected on a clutch 3 in overtime and a collective defensive effort in the final seconds of the extra session keyed an 88-86 win over Mount Union on Feb. 24 in the Ohio Athletic Conference tournament championship game.

.@JCUMensHoops celebration @jcusports @NHPreps #d3hoops pic.twitter.com/2SckDqoTNw

— Mark Podolski (@mpodo) February 24, 2024

JCU — ranked No. 3 in the D3hoops.com Top 25 poll — earned the automatic bid to the NCAA Division III men's tournament, improved to 25-2 and will learn its next opponent when the 64-team tournament field is announced Feb. 26.

Final: @JCUMensHoops 88, Mount 86

JCU wins @OHAthleticConf and ncaa auto bid. @jcusports #d3hoops

WHAT A GAME @NHPreps pic.twitter.com/d7ipwmj3EY

— Mark Podolski (@mpodo) February 24, 2024

It's expected the Blue Streaks will host a first-round quadrant next weekend at the DeCarlo Varsity Center.

The Blue Steaks had a big first-half lead and took a 48-36 advantage to the locker room but Mount Union (20-7) didn't quit.

The Purple Raiders kept pecking away at the lead and tied the game at 77-77 thanks to the hot play of Collen Gurley, who scored a game-high 30 points.

JCU had a chance to win the game in regulation with less than 20 seconds to play, but a Chicone shot went awry and Mount had a breakaway but was fouled.

Elijah Farrington then went to the line with 3 seconds to play and made two free throws for a 79-77 lead.

Headed to OT tied at 79 as @lukechicone makes 2 FT wit .4 seconds on clock @JCUMensHoops @jcusports #d3hoops pic.twitter.com/HvFsvRX92q

— Mark Podolski (@mpodo) February 24, 2024

Chicone gave JCU one last chance and on a running attempt near the arc was fouled. He went to the line with 0.4 seconds on the clock, made both before a raucous crowd and gave the Blue Streaks new life in OT.

.@lukechicone on his two clutch FTs with .4 seconds on the clock in regulation that forced OT and helped @JCUMensHoops win @OHAthleticConf tournament championship game and more. @jcusports @NHPreps @MentorAthletics @CardinalCage pic.twitter.com/4u65SyDISu

— Mark Podolski (@mpodo) February 24, 2024

"I was too nervous. I was almost numb," said Chicone about the moment. "When I went up there, I was just trying to breath ... luckily (the last one) went in."

Said Higgins: "He's the (OAC) player of the year for a reason. We trust him and had faith in him that he would hit two, and he did."

Huge @j_higgins6 3-pointer in OT @JCUMensHoops @jcusports https://t.co/6UPZiGP2q6

— Mark Podolski (@mpodo) February 24, 2024

In OT, Higgins connected on the biggest 3-pointer of his JCU career from the left wing for an 86-83 advantage. Two David Gentry free throws made it 88-83.

"You never know when the moment will come and when it does, you have to bury (the shot)," said Higgins. "A great play, a great pass but I think we won the game on the defensive end."

.@j_higgins6 on his clutch 3 in OT to help @JCUMensHoops defeat Mount 88-86, his D on Coleen Gurley and @lukechicone's clutch FTs @jcusports #d3hoops @NHPreps @VASJVikingsAD pic.twitter.com/yH5KcTeaP7

— Mark Podolski (@mpodo) February 24, 2024

The Purple Raiders got a 3 from Gurley to cut the lead to two, and had one last chance with 4 seconds on the clock down, 88-86. Again, they went to Gurley, whose last-second 3 was off the mark thanks to the defensive effort of Higgins and others.

The Moran family name is synonymous with @JCUMensHoops and coach @Pmoran07 sums up what the 88-86 OT win over Mount meant to him. @jcusports @OHAthleticConf @lukechicone @NHPreps #d3hoops pic.twitter.com/Tp9FC5gKoY

— Mark Podolski (@mpodo) February 24, 2024

"We missed some shots and they were getting the ball out in transition and getting easy baskets," said JCU coach Pete Moran. "It was a game of runs. Mount fought for their lives obviously."

Early on, JCU brought the defense, especially in the first 10 minutes. Mount Union didn't score until 5 minutes into regulation as the Blue Steaks built a 14-0 lead on two Luke Frazier 3-pointers. Also big were consecutive blocks by Lake Catholic's Luka Eller, who followed each block with a plea to the student section to bring more noise — which it did.

Another big run — this one 12-2 — pushed the advantage to 26-4.

PHOTOS: John Carroll vs. Mount Union men's basketball, Feb. 24, 2024

The Purple Raiders answered with a 13-0 run to close their deficit to nine at 26-17 but JCU led at half, 48-36.

Frazier — a Lake Catholic product — had a huge first half with 22 points on 7 of 11 shooting, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range. He finished with 28 points and was named MVP of the OAC tournament.

Chicone had 14 points, five assists, five steals and four rebounds. Henry Raynor had a huge game in the paint with 16 points and 12 rebounds.

THE SCORE

John Carroll 88, Mount Union 86 (OT)