The McMurry men led by 13 at the half. They were up 11 with five minutes to go. The lead was nine with 1:51 left and was seven entering the final minute.
Then, seniors happened.
Hardin-Simmons senior Zach Pickelman, who came in averaging 20 points per game but was held scoreless in the first half, hit a three-pointer in the corner to cut the lead to 61-57. After Terrance Booker made one of two foul shots for McMurry, senior guard Matt Brackett, finding nobody open, took the ball to the hole for HSU, cutting the lead to 62-59 with 30 seconds left.
Booker again made one of two foul shots. Then Brackett did the same thing — as a play to get Pickelman open was slow to develop, he took the ball to the hole one more time, cutting the lead to two points with 16 seconds left.
As McMurry was attempting to push the ball upcourt and stay away from HSU’s foul attempts, it threw the ball away, giving Hardin-Simmons the ball at the other end of the floor with nine seconds left. And Pickelman got the basketball with three seconds left, faked his man up in the air, got himself a wide-open shot and buried it with 0.9 remaining.
Pickelman stole the ensuing inbounds pass and it was bedlam, with fans pouring out of the stands and dancing on the floor at Hardin-Simmons.
The women’s game saw McMurry score the first seven points and hold a 16-6 lead but McMurry was stuck on 16 for an awful long time. Hardin-Simmons went on an 18-0 run to take a 24-16 lead. McMurry scored 10 of the final 13 points to make it a two-point game at halftime. The second half featured seven ties and nine lead changes.
Although the status of Hope/Calvin as the No. 1 rivalry in Division III cannot be questioned, McMurry/Hardin-Simmons is one of several in contention for the No. 2 slot. Amherst/Williams and Wooster/Wittenberg are on that list as well, as would be Bates/Bowdoin on the women’s side, and my fried brain is probably missing others. (And for those of you who would push for their own rivalry as being No. 1, let’s see you put 11,000 fans in the seats first. That’s the bar to reach right now.)
Great night of basketball, and a great capper to the trip. Thanks to the folks at McMurry for making this journey possible.
Now I’m going to go sleep for three days and I’ll re-emerge for the Mount Union/St. John Fisher football game. 🙂