Kashief Edwards made good on his team’s second chance with a shot at the buzzer as the Niagara Purple Eagles defeated the Canisius Golden Griffins 67-65 in Metro-Atlantic Athletic Conference Wednesday night at the Gallagher Center.
Anthony Nelson gently lofted a pass into the air, and Edwards caught and released in one motion. The shot looked good when it was batted from the air. It didn’t matter. Basket interference was called, and the Purple Eagles had their margin of victory.
“I knew Shief was going to get open,” Nelson said of the final play. “It was just simply fake down and go up,” Nelson added of his pass. “I knew it was cash. The big man probably knew it was cash, too, so that’s probably why he smacked it. It was a play that we practice all the time. It finally worked.”
“First time it worked in 13 years,” Niagara head coach, Joe Mihalich said of the play.
It was the dramatic ending that almost wasn’t.
Just moments before, Tomas Vazquez-Simmons swatted away Marvin Jordan’s game-winning attempt. The horn sounded, and the teams returned to their benches anticipating an overtime that never occurred.
After reviewing the play, game officials determined that four-tenths of a second remained in the contest. The teams returned to the floor, and Niagara ran a baseline-out-of-bounds play.
With the Griffin defenders switching on screens, Edwards found himself open eight feet from the basket where Nelson feathered a pass just over the outstretched arms of 7’3″ Marial Dhal and to his teammate for the winner.
Edwards earned redemption from the teams’ meeting last month. The junior forward finished the game with 21 points shooting 10-of-13 shooting from the field and 1-of-3 from the free throw line.
The assist was Nelson’s ninth of the game. The senior guard who averages 15.7 points a game became the play-maker for the night.
“Coming into the game, honestly, I just try to take what the defense gives me,” Nelson explained. “I noticed they were going under the ball screen. I figured if they were going to go under the ball screens, I could beat them to the spot, and beat them to the paint. They started to draw to me, and I found Shief, and it got us going.”
Canisius jumped to an early lead.
Gaby Belardo paced the Griffins early with a variety of assists. The red-shirt sophomore combined with Elton Frazier twice on alley oop dunks in the game’s opening moments.
Julius Coles grabbed a defensive rebound and started the break finding Belardo open on the right side. Belardo quickly skipped the ball from corner-to-corner for Alshwan Hymes who made a catch-and-shoot three from the left.
One trip later, Belardo found Hymes again on the right side, and the Griffs had an early 10-5 lead.
But the lead would not last.
Nelson spark a 13-8 rally for the Purple Eagles. The senior guard hit a three from the right side. The next time down the floor he found Malcolm Lemmons for another 3-pointer.
Scooter Gillette grabbed a missed free throw and converted. The Purple Eagles set their full-court press forcing a turnover. Nelson got the steal and was fouled hitting two free throws to tie the score 16.
Niagara took the lead at 18-16 when Kashief Edwards finished a lay up in transition.
Malcolm Lemmons and Marvin Jordan combined for 14 points as Niagara took a 43-34 lead at the break.
Edwards came out of the locker room at halftime intent on putting the game out of reach. The Philadelphia, Pa. native scored nine of Niagara’s first 13, and the Purple Eagles led 56-48.
The Blue and Gold battled back.
Robert Goldsberry sparked 10-2 run.
Off a timeout, the Purple Eagles went with a 1-3-1 defense for the first time in the game. The Griffs patiently moved the ball side to side before Goldsberry used an upfake and two dribbles to get into the lane. With the defense reacting, Belardo slipped into a gap where Goldsberry delivered a pass, and Belardo nailed a three from the left corner.
Goldsberry bailed out the Griffs on the next possession with a running jumper along the baseline as the shot clock expired.
The Griffins increased the pressure on defense and created a turnover which Goldsberry went to the floor to retrieve. At the other end, he found Vazquez-Simmons in the corner for another open trifecta. On the next possession, Goldsberry ripped the ball from the hands of Edwards and led the break where he delivered a pass to Greg Logins who made one quick dribble and hit from fifteen feet. The Griffs were within three at 58-55.
The teams traded baskets.
Nelson drove the lane and dished to Edwards for a right hand layup. Canisius countered. Vazquez-Simmons flashed to the foul line, caught a pass and quickly relocated the ball to Julius Coles who connected from behind the arc.
Edwards finished from inside again.
Coles dribbled off a ball screen and weaved his way through the defense, finished a right-hand layup and completed the three-point play at the foul line.
The Griffs took advantage of a pair of missed one-and-one free throws to tie the game. The Blue and Gold needed three offensive rebounds before Belardo finished a lay up. Two trips later, Coles drove the lane, dished to Goldsberry who continued a pass to Frazier to tie the game with six ticks remaining on the clock.
“I told them you’re never going to be up enough points on this team, but you’re never going to be down enough,” Canisius coach Tom Parrotta commented. “Because you can allways, always fight back. That’s just the way it is with the two of us.”
Coles and Frazier scored 13 apiece. Belardo added 12. Logins had a game-high 11 rebounds.
The Griffs got revenge on Rider over the weekend. That game ended similarly with the Broncs getting a last-second opportunity on the baseline. Dhal deflected the pass as Canisius won. The loss was the second of buzzer-beater fashio for the Griffs. Novar Gadson’s last second layup beat the Griffs on January 9th.
The Griffs outrebounded the Purple Eagles by 12 in the game’s final 12 minutes.
Niagara leads the all-time series 92-75. The Griffs have not won at Niagara since November 30, 2002.
When the teams met on January 28th, Edwards playing his first game in three weeks after a knee injury. Edwards finished 0-2 from the field and did not get to the free throw line.
Niagara improves to 4-12 and 7-21.
Canisius falls to 7-9 and 13-13.