November 24, 2010
As Skidmore College's basketball team celebrated an epic 128-123 seven overtime win over Southern Vermont Tuesday night, coach Joe Burke noticed starting point guard Gerard O'Shea fall down clutching his leg.
"We're jumping around in the locker room and I said to him, 'You OK?'" Burke said. "He went down because his body started cramping up."
It's a testament to the amount of energy both teams expended that players scarcely had energy for hugs and high-fives after the lone Division III game ever to go past five overtimes. The only two other college basketball games ever to reach a seventh overtime were Black Hills beating Yankton 80-79 in 1956 and Cincinnati defeating Bradley 75-73 in 1981.
So many of the numbers in the boxscore are so bizarre that it's difficult to believe they aren't misprints.
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A total of eight players fouled out and the teams combined for 166 rebounds and 230 field goal attempts in the game and 133 points in the overtimes alone. Southern Vermont guard Lance Spratling was the only player who played all 75 minutes, fatigue surely contributing to him missing all 13 three-pointers he attempted during a woeful 10-for-40 shooting night.
"I was going on adrenaline, but it was pretty exhausting," said Spratling, who ran cross country at Southern Vermont prior to this year and still does a lot of running on his own.
"As the minutes go by, your legs start to wear out on you and your arms start to wear out on you, but for me it was more the steady contact. Hitting other people or falling on the ground, you start to bruise up and swell up and your body doesn't move as fast as you want it to."
Junior forward Melvis Langyintuo hit a free throw with one second left in the first overtime to extend the game to a second extra session. Then senior guard Jeff Altimar sank a jump shot with 10 seconds left in the third overtime to force a fourth. And junior guard Terron Victoria came to Skidmore's rescue in that extra session with the tying bucket with two seconds remaining to ensure overtime No. 5.
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Maybe the biggest hero of the night for Skidmore was seldom-used freshman guard Eli Johnson, who didn't even enter the game until the fifth overtime session. His only points of the game were a game-tying 3-pointer with 10 seconds left in the sixth overtime, capping Skidmore's rally from a six-point deficit in that extra session.
"For me the memories are in the toughness that the guys portrayed and different guys stepping up and hitting huge shots," Burke said. "It's very early in the season and our goal is to make the NCAA tournament, but at the same time the kids will never have anything like this in their lives. They'll be telling their kids and they'll be telling their grandkids about this, so I want them to enjoy it. They should soak this in, enjoy the moment."
The past 12 hours have been a whirlwind for players and coaches from two tiny basketball programs unaccustomed to receiving much publicity. They've watched highlights of the game make ESPN "SportsCenter" and conducted interviews with local and national media.
Burke left an assistant coaching gig at Navy to take the Skidmore job a few months ago, so his family is still back in Annapolis because they haven't had time to make a permanent move. Bleary-eyed and still brimming with adrenaline, Burke began the drive from Saratoga Springs, N.Y., early Wednesday morning to make it home in time for Thanksgiving.
"I promised my kids I'd be home Wednesday," Burke said. "Little did I know that I'd be working on about two hours sleep this morning driving seven hours, but it's totally worth it."
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