Gilmour '20 has career night but season ends for men's basketball

Kena Gilmour '20 poured in a career-high 40 points against Springfield on Friday night (Lily Wushanley photo).
Kena Gilmour '20 poured in a career-high 40 points against Springfield on Friday night (Lily Wushanley photo).

It was an instant classic. Two talented teams going head-to-head in an extremely well-played game that was to be expected at this late stage in the season.

Yes, this 2018 NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Championship sectional semifinal had it all. Two outstanding individual performances, few turnovers, great shooting, plenty of hustle but not many fouls, and even a buzzer-beater that sent the game to overtime.

Unfortunately for fans of the nationally ranked No. 13 Hamilton College Continentals, this one had everything except a win. The Springfield College Pride posted the 92-90 victory at Swarthmore College's Tarble Pavilion on Friday night and moved on to Saturday night's sectional final (quarterfinals) for the first time. Springfield will play Swarthmore, which breezed to a 93-63 triumph against SUNY Plattsburgh in the later game.

Hamilton wraps up 2017-18 with a record of 24-5 as the 24 wins are the second most in a season in program history. The Continentals reached the third round for the fifth time overall and the first time since 2003.

Hamilton's Kena Gilmour '20 saved his best game of the season for the brightest lights on the biggest stage. Gilmour finished with a career-high 40 points on 13 of 23 shooting, including 5 of 9 from 3-point range, and was 9-for-11 at the free-throw line. He scored 27 of those points after halftime. Cedric Oliver '79 holds the team record for points in a game with 52 against SUNY Cortland back in 1978-79.

Peter Hoffmann '19 scored 16 points, tied a career high with 11 rebounds and handed out four assists for the Continentals. Hoffmann's double-double was his third this season. Michael Grassey '19 chipped in 14 points and Andrew Groll '19 added a dozen off the bench. Hamilton shot 52.2 percent from the floor, including 7 of 17 from beyond the arc, and held a 39-29 advantage on the glass. The Continentals scored 54 points in the paint compared to 32 for the Pride.

Jake Ross led Springfield (21-8 overall) with 36 points, nine assists and four steals. Heath Post recorded a double-double with 14 points and 12 boards, and Andy McNulty had 14 points and five assists. Brandon Eckles scored nine of his 11 points on three 3-point baskets and Cam Earle ended up with 10 points. The Pride shot 50 percent from the field, including 10 of 25 from long range. One of those 3-pointers was the biggest shot of the season for Springfield, which won for the 15th time in its last 17 games.

Hamilton had a chance to clinch the win with two free throws while leading by three points with less than four seconds to play in the second half. The Continentals missed both shots and Post grabbed the defensive rebound. Eventually the ball found its way to McNulty, who stopped about 25 feet from the basket and launched a prayer that was answered, and the teams went to overtime tied at 81.

The Pride came out flying in the extra period. Springfield won the tip and Ross promptly canned a jumper. About 90 seconds later, Post made a power move into the lane and dunked for the four-point lead. After a free throw by Gilmour, McNulty came down and drained another 3-pointer for an 88-82 cushion with 2:41 remaining. Grassey cut Hamilton's deficit in half with a basket from downtown, and Gilmour pulled the Continentals within one at 88-87 on two free throws with about 32 seconds to go. McNulty was fouled intentionally and restored the Pride's three-point lead. Hamilton missed two 3-point shots that would have tied the score on its next possession, and Earle sealed Springfield's victory with two free throws with five seconds left. A 3-pointer by Gilmour beat the final buzzer and accounted for the final margin.

There were eight ties and 12 lead changes, and neither team led by more than 10 points. The Continentals owned that 10-point lead at 70-60 after Groll completed a traditional 3-point play with 7:22 remaining in the second half. Hamilton held a 40-39 edge at the break and led for all but 2:46 after halftime. The Continentals enjoyed a 76-68 cushion after a Gilmour jumper with 2:44 to go but they missed a layup, committed a turnover, and went 5-for-9 at the line in the final two minutes of regulation.

The Pride took their largest lead of the night by scoring the first seven points for a 7-0 advantage barely more than two minutes into the contest. Hamilton roared back with seven straight points to tie the score, and the Continentals went on a 9-0 run midway through the half and grabbed a 25-16 lead with 8:50 left. Springfield erased its nine-point deficit in just two minutes and neither team led by more than four points during the final eight minutes of the half.