By Michael Lewis
KINGS POINT, N.Y. – For the second time in four days, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy lived on the edge.
This time, however, the Mariners did not survive to talk about it.
Whatever magic they had in their double-overtime win over Drew University on Saturday could not be duplicated on Tuesday night as they dropped a frustrating and disappointing 85-75 loss to Stevens Tech in two OTs at Liebertz Gymnasium.
Not even the late heroics of sophomore forward Reed Buck for the second successive game could save the Mariners (3-3). The Lawrenceville, Ga. native scored 16 of his team-high 28 points in the final 18:48 of regulation and OT before his magic ran out and he fouled out with 1:08 remaining in the non-conference encounter. Buck added seven rebounds.
Entering the second extra session tied at 73-73, the Mariners grabbed their last lead of the game when Sophomore guard-forward Zach Karczewski (10 points, nine rebounds) converted a rebound of a missing Reed shot with 4:45 remaining. Then the hosts went cold the rest of the way, either turning the ball over, missing shots from the field and the free throw line. Sophomore forward Nick Sergio (nine points) missed the front end of one-and-one situations with 4:05 and 2:42 remaining.
On the other end of the court, the Ducks (6-2) found a way to pull away. After Mike Cutri sank one foul shot to pull them within one, guard Russ Thompson (game-high 29 points) sank one of his eight three-point shots to give Stevens the lead to stay at 77-75 with 3:44.
Junior guard Sheldon Jones, who registered 16 of his 22 points after halftime, hit a pair of layups within 53 seconds to give the Ducks an 81-75 advantage with 2:05 to go. Cutri added a basket and Simon Smith (22 points) sank a pair of foul shots for the final points of the second thrilling game played at Liebertz in less than a week.
What made the defeat even more frustrating for the Mariners was that they held as much as an eight-point lead 32 seconds into the second half as they allowed the Ducks to get back in the game with an 11-2 burst over a 3:36 span to grab a 57-56 lead with 5:22 remaining in regulation.
The teams battled down to the wire as Reed canned a three-pointer with 29.3 seconds left to force the first overtime. Patrick Farrell had an opportunity to win it for the Merchant Marines, but his long three-point attempt went over the backboard just before the buzzer sounded.
After a three-point basket by senior guard Kevin Kerr (five points) lifted the Mariners into a 71-70 lead with 14.1 seconds remaining, Jones had a chance to win it for the visitors in the 1st OT. His first foul shot with 8.8 seconds remaining) went in to tie it at 70-70, but he missed his second attempt. Buck rebounded, but he missed a shot at the buzzer that was considerably off the mark, setting up yet another double overtime finish.
Except this time, it did not end in favor of the home team.
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The Mariners sank 38.6 percent of their field goal tries (27-70) and were not much better from three-point range (25 percent on 6-of-24 shooting). Buck was 11-of-26 from the field, but only 1-of-8 from three-point land. Karczewski hit 5-of-9 baskets.
The Ducks were dangerous from the floor. They converted 47.6 percent of their field-goal attempts (30-of63) and were just as lethal from three-point range (10-for-21). Thompson was responsible for most of the long-range damage, pumping in 8-of-13 field-goal attempts and 8-of-13 from three-point range.
The Merchant Marines outrebounded the Ducks, 44-41.
The Mariners will host Wesleyan in the second game of a doubleheader in Liebertz Gymnasium at 3 p.m. on Saturday, following the Merchant Marine women taking on Rutgers-Camden at 1 p.m.
Photo: Kevin Kerr's three-point basket helped force a second overtime. Photo by Shawn Antonelli.