Niagara Gazette — The heart-stopping heroics finally stopped working for the Niagara Purple Eagles.
Erik Etherly caught a 75-foot inbounds pass from Anthony Winbush with 2.6 seconds on the clock, spun around and fed Julius Brooks for a buzzer-beating layup Saturday, allowing the Loyola Greyhounds to leave the Gallagher Center with an 89-87 double overtime win.
Niagara rallied back from a nine-point second half deficit, came back from being down eight to force the second overtime on Juan'ya Green 3-pointer with 6.2 seconds left, and tied the game with a pair of Malcolm Lemmons free throws before the Greyhounds final play.
But after winning a school-record 10 straight Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference games — five by four points or less — and pulling out the last two games in the closing seconds, the Purple Eagles found themselves on the other end of an exhilarating finish.
"We can't have games so close every single time," Niagara guard Antoine Mason said. "It's a wakeup call."
"We got what we deserved," coach Joe Mihalich said. "We didn't deserve to win."
Yet, with crosstown rival Canisius beating Iona on Saturday night, Niagara (14-9, 10-2) maintains its two game lead in the MAAC standings over Iona, Loyola and Canisius, who are all 8-4.
"We don't need help from anybody else to win the regular season championship," Mihalich said. "We need to play harder, we need to work harder, we need to play better. Everyone needs to improve. But if we do that, let's see what happens."
Mihalich accepted the blame for Niagara's defensive breakdown on the final play.
"It's a coaching mistake," he said. "We didn't practice it enough."
"We knew it was going to be a long pass," Juan'ya Green said. "We just got our switches messed up at the end."
"We didn't lose the game at the end," Mihalich said. "We lost the game in the first half. We didn't come out and set the tone that we've been setting."