Engineers blitzed by Bombers in overtime
Ithaca crowned Liberty League champions
The Bombers scored 14 points in overtime to defeat the Engineers, granting them the Liberty League title. The Engineers still advance to the NCAA tournament, facing off against New England College on March 6.
The last time the Engineers made it to the Liberty League Championship Game was in 2013 where they fell to Hobart 72‒63. The last time Rensselaer played against Ithaca, they lost 62‒60. The odds did not appear in their favor.
RPI’s Kevin Davis ’20 was on fire in the first three minutes, scoring two three-pointers to put the Engineers up 6‒4. Dom Black ’22 and Jonny Angbazo ’23 also joined in on the action, each scoring a three-pointer to bring the lead to 12‒11 with 14:24 left to play in the first half. With 9:16 left in the half, the crowd roared as Angbazo rejected a layup attempt from Ithaca’s captain Sebastian Alderete.
The Bombers stayed close behind. A minute after Angbazo’s block, Ithaca’s George Sikoryak III Euro stepped around Mitchel Wayand ’20 to put the Bombers up 19‒18. The Engineers came back up the court and Patrick Mahoney ’21 sank a putback to regain the lead 20‒19. The Engineers’ defense was prolific, stopping the Bomber offense at every turn. With less than seven minutes left in the half, Will Rubin ’23, from the three-point arc, faked a pass to Davis in the corner to create separation from his defender, Skylar Sinon. After Sinon took the bait, Rubin drained a three to extend the lead to 25‒17.
In the next minute, Ithaca scored two three-pointers to cut RPI’s lead to 27‒25. The two squads showed their determination through extraordinary work ethic. The lead shifted hands seemingly every attack, intensifying the game with every bucket. With 2:10 left in the half, Rubin hit another three, tying the game at 32 and energizing the RPI fans. The Bombers rallied in response, taking a 38‒32 lead with 4.5 seconds left on the clock. The ball was inbounded to Rubin to quickly get a shot off, and beat the buzzer, from near the halfway line. After release, the ball floated towards the basket; almost as if it was controlling itself, the ball found the net. The crowd was sent into a frenzy as the Engineers were now only down by three going into halftime.
After a little over two minutes played in the second half, the Bombers ran off to a 44‒37 lead. The Engineers managed to gain an edge though. Within the next minute, the Engineers brought the scoreline to 44‒42 when Black absorbed contact in the paint and released a teardrop over his defender. With 15:57 left to play in regulation, Wayand was set up in a firm defensive position as Ithaca guard Riley Thompson drove the lane, resulting in a charging call on Thompson and giving RPI possession. After five minutes of play in the half, Angbazo had the ball in the post. He faked a spin towards the paint, causing his defender to commit, then spun the opposite direction and scored the layup. Several minutes later, Angbazo powered through the Bomber defense in the paint to give the Engineers a 50‒49 lead.
The expert defending of RPI was not enough to hold down Ithaca. The Bombers maintained their lead until Davis hit a three-pointer with 4:45 left to play to put the Engineers in front 63‒61. With four minutes remaining, Sinon attempted a jump shot from the elbow, but Mason Memmelaar ’22 came from behind and made a huge block to maintain a fragile 65‒63 lead.
With 35.8 seconds left to play in regulation, RPI took a timeout with the game tied at 66. A failed RPI attack gave Ithaca the ball with 14.8 seconds remaining and the lead easily within the Bombers’ grasp. On their final attack of regulation, Alderete attempted to thread the needle with a layup between the arms of two RPI defenders, but was unsuccessful. Regulation ended in a 66‒66 draw, forcing a five-minute overtime period.
It was in overtime that the Bombers ran away with the game. Back to back threes for Thompson gave Ithaca a six-point lead with 3:32 left to play. The Engineers struggled to produce any offense as they only scored a layup and a free throw in the entire five minutes of overtime. The Bombers kept up the pressure, extending their lead to 80‒69 before the time expired. Angbazo led RPI’s point total with 17, while Alderete led Ithaca’s with an impressive total of 28.
Despite the loss, the Engineers continue their season as they advance to the NCAA tournament.