The men’s basketball team defeated visiting Norwich University Saturday evening in a thriller, thanks to a heroic scoring stretch in the final two minutes by star fifth-year guard EJ Day. Day finished with 27 points, 18 of which came in the second half, and notched 5 assists while playing all 40 minutes of the game. First-year forward Quinton Partee Jr had a double-double, adding 13 points and 10 rebounds.
“Being a leader on his team, it’s just something I look forward to doing,” said Day. “At this stage of the game and this late in the season, I feel like I'm kind of confident [about] when to move and when to take my shot and I feel like tonight proved that.”
Unlike the closing hot-streak, it took three and a half minutes for the Lasers to get their opening score— a free throw by sophomore forward Aidan Morin. By then, the Cadets had opened with nine straight points, and with no shots falling, the Lasers were at a deficit.
Thankfully for the Lasers, scoring leaders Day and Partee Jr started to heat up midway through the first-half. Day first scored at the 12-minute mark, followed by two more free-throws, and a three-pointer from sophomore guard Conan McCusker. Partee Jr scored a pair of baskets a minute later, including a crafty take on a fastbreak.
Even with the offensive spurt, the Lasers found themselves down six as the first half ended.
“So halftime, you know coming together just talking about what we're doing wrong, really,” said Day. “And then just trying to key in on that knowing defense is what it takes to win. And I feel like as a team, we did that tonight and that's why we were able to execute in the second half better than we did in the first one.”
After the mentality switch at intermission, the Lasers came out with intention. Partee Jr got them started with back-to-back scores, while senior guard DaVon Bradley and fifth-year Andrew Cabral made their impact known off the bench. The two scored 6 points each, Cabral’s coming from a momentum three in each half. The Lasers even broke out into a press at various points.
The Lasers tied the game 42-42 midway through the half after chasing the cadets for 28-minutes prior. An impressive and-one from Day gave the home team its first lead 49-48 with nine minutes left, prompting an intense back-and-forth conclusion to the matchup.
Each team traded scores for the next few possessions until, with four minutes left, senior guard Demerrick Warren hit a big three to put the Lasers up 59-58. However, Cadet’s guard Jalen Olivero responded with a three of his own, and after a scoreless trip down the floor from the Lasers, Norwich used their whole shot clock before finding Donovan Lewis Jr for a layup to go up by four.
Then, with just 2:11 remaining, Day took the game into his own hands. The run started with his only made three of the night— a splash from deep to bring the Lasers within one. Next, after a missed Cadet layup, Day went down court and made another jumpshot, this time a two to secure the lead 64-63, and erupt the Athletic Center with just a minute remaining.
After taking a timeout, Norwich missed another opportunity on offense, leading to a dagger by Day twenty seconds later. The Cadets had a final possession to attempt to tie, but once again came up short resulting in a 66-63 win for the Lasers.
“I think I put that pressure on myself down the stretch… [in] big moments,” said Day. “I think I'm a big time player, so just coming down the stretch, knowing where my teammates are, just knowing where they're going to be, knowing that they react to what I do… I was able to get the open shot because they were able to hit open shots beforehand. We've been in this situation before, we have lost games where we've been up, and then now we win a game coming from down late.”
The Lasers next home game will be their Senior Day on Tuesday, February 14 at 7:30 p.m. against Dean College.