KEENE, N.H. 1/14/12 – Welcome back Ollie Hunter. After missing a few games the senior guard from Bedford, N.H hit a driving lay-up with 6.8 seconds to play to lift the Keene State College men's basketball team to a wild 92-91come-from-behind upset victory over #20 ranked Rhode Island College at Spaulding Gym on Saturday. "We were supposed to get the ball to Rashad (Wright), but he was sealed off, so I decided to take it to the hoop," said Hunter. "I was confident I could make a play. I just really wanted to leave it all out there for my teammates."
"It was just a free-for-all, we just spread out. We felt they were in deep foul trouble," said KSC Coach Rob Colbert. "We felt our chances of getting to the rim were higher than getting an open shot."
Junior guard Ryan Martin (Wayne, Maine) triggered the comeback, scoring 12of his game-high 28 points in the final two minutes of play. "This shows a lot about our team. We had our backs against the wall, but played tough down the stretch and made a bunch of big shots and came out on top."
The victory improves the Owls' record to 10-4 (4-1 LEC) while RIC (12-2, 3-2 LEC) saw its three game winning streak come to an end.
Trailing by nine points with 2:21 to play, the upset-minded Owls started their comeback. After a pair of free throws by junior Rashad Wright (Agawam, Mass.) cut the lead to 83-77, Martin hit a lay-up to make it 83-79 with 1:15 to go.
Senior Mike Akinrola (Woonsocket, R.I.), who hit 11 of his 13 shots from the field to finish with a team high 23 points and nine rebounds for the Anchormen, made a lay-up to push the lead back up to six (85-79) with just over a minute to go.
Martin continued his magic, hitting a three-pointer from the right corner to make it a three point game (85-82) with 58 seconds to play.
The Anchormen answered Owl baskets with free throws down the stretch. After senior Mason Choice (Newport, R.I.) hit a pair from the line to put RIC up 89-84, Martin again buried a corner three-ball to make it a two point game (89-87) with 25 seconds left on the clock.
Choice hit two more shots from the stripe to give RIC a 91-87 lead with 18 seconds to go. Freshman Tom Doyle (Wallingford, Conn.), who made his first start of the season for the Owls, continued to make an immediate impact, hitting a baseline three-pointer, cutting the lead down to point (91-90) with 15 seconds to play.
On the inbounds play, Wright blocked a pass and Martin, while falling out of bounds, corralled the ball and threw it off a RIC player to give KSC possession. Following an Owl time out, Hunter, with time running down, drove the right side of the lane, hitting the go-ahead lay-up to put Keene State on top 92-91.
Hunter, who was fouled on the play, intentionally missed the free throw. Choice had a chance to with the game in the final seconds, but his three-point shot grazed off the bottom of the net.
"The key move down the end was my coaching staff, "said Colbert. "I had Hunter in there to make the shot and (asst. coach) Alphonse Michalski said miss the shot. I went with him. I thought Mason had a great look at the end which is really scary, but we made plays when we had to."
Coming up short in their bid to upset nationally-ranked Western Conn. last Tuesday, the Owls wouldn't be denied this time around. "We knew this was a game that we had to be ready to play," said Martin. "This game keeps us near the top of the conference and is a huge win."
"I thought the togetherness they played with was special. We had a lot of players make big contributions," said Colbert. "I think this win validates to our kids that as a group we can beat anybody."
Shining in his first start, Doyle finished with 17 points while Rashad chipped in with 12 points and a team high seven rebounds.
Sophomore Avery King (Pawtucket, R.I.) scored 21 points, Choice added 16 points and junior Tahrike Carter (Brooklyn, N.Y.) finished with 13 points for RIC.
Both teams shot well from the field with KSC 29-53 (55%) and RIC 30-58 (52%). The Anchormen had a 35-26 advantage on the glass.
Keene State and the two-time defending LEC champion Anchormen, who beat the Owls three times last season, have hooked up in some memorable games of late, including the 2007 LEC championship and an epic double-overtime thriller in last year's semifinals, eventually won by the RIC 102-92.