FORT SMITH, Ark. – For an instant Saturday, it looked as if the Rattlers had pulled off another last-second miracle.
With time expiring in overtime against Arkansas-Fort Smith, Lamb Autrey handed the ball off along the left wing to Moses Sundufu, who put up a 3-pointer that banked in off the glass as the buzzer sounded.
But a closer look by the officials revealed the buzzer had sounded before Sundufu got off the shot, securing the Lions’ 67-64 victory in overtime over the St. Mary’s men’s basketball team at the Stubblefield Center.
The loss ended the Rattlers’ hopes of hosting the Heartland Conference Tournament, as Texas A&M International earned the top seed and the right to host the tournament on the strength of Saturday’s victory over Dallas Baptist coupled with the Rattlers’ loss to Arkansas-Fort Smith.
A defensive stop in the paint by the Rattlers in the final seconds of regulation forced overtime with the game squared up at 56-56, but overtime belonged to the Lions from the start.
UA Fort Smith opened up a four-point lead less than two minutes into the extra session and managed to lead throughout – but not without the late scare from Sundufu.
Kevin Kotzur (Jr., La Vernia, Texas) led the Rattlers with 15 points, moving the star big man into the top 10 of St. Mary’s all-time scoring list with 1,373 career points. Lamb Autrey (Sr., Cibolo, Texas) and Daryell Taylor (Jr., Houston) added 13 points apiece, while Sundufu (Jr., Hopkins, Minn.) scored 10 and hauled in a team-high eight rebounds in the defeat.
Autrey’s buzzer-beating shot at the end of the first half gave St. Mary’s (16-8, 9-4 in Heartland Conference) a 32-26 lead at the break, its largest lead of the night. But the Lions opened up the second half much like they opened overtime, going on an 11-2 run to take a three-point lead minutes into the second frame.
There were 11 lead changes in the game, which also saw nine ties.