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Call this one a heartbreaker. Riding the momentum of a superhuman 31-point effort by Brian Banks and a hustling, scraping second-half comeback, Harvard's basketball team fell short, 79-77, against Division 2 powerhouse Bentley College at the IAB last night.
Trailing through most of the second half, and by six points with 1:35 left, the Crimson pulled within two points in the final minute and seemed on the verge of sending the donnybrook into overtime. But the swarming Bentley defense picked off a pass from Harvard's Mike Stenhouse--cold off the bench after Glenn Fine fouled out breaking Bentley's freeze--with ten seconds left to ice the game.
Rich Bengel and Bob Hooft connected on a pair of jump shots from the corner at 1:25 and 0:50 to pull Coach Frank McLaughlin's exciting but as yet winless squad to within two points.
But then Crimson-killer Kevin Bower took charge, picking off the eleventh-hour pass to secure the Falcon win. Bower nearly buried Harvard's hopes with 18 second-half points, despite the hounding efforts of the Crimson's man-to-man defense.
Up to that point, the sparse IAB crowd had been entertained by an encore performance of the Banks-and-Fine show, with Brian hitting 12 of 16 field goals, hauling down six rebounds and blocking half a dozen Falcon shots, while Glenn popped for ten and dished out nine assists. Gary Ackerman (12 points) and Hooft (11) turned in solid supporting roles.
The opening minutes of the first half saw McLaughlin's horses run off to leads of as much as seven points before running out of gas in the homestretch and being outscored, 21-7, in the last seven minutes of the stanza. The intermission result: Bentley 41, home team 34.
Banks abused the Falcon offense, whirling and shooting with authority from inside for 13 first-half points.
Most of Banks's points came on set-ups from Harvard's gutsy little guard, Glenn Fine, who besides threading passes underneath to Banks and Ackerman (seven first-half points) came up with eight points of his own on medium-range jumpers.
Harvard came out hustling in the second half, pulling into a 64-all tie on a Banks free throw at 6:29. But Bentley turned on the retro-burners and the quick, well-oiled Falcon offensive machine reassumed the lead on a couple of fast breaks.
Enter Hooft and Bengel, Harvard's best shooters, to set the stage for the hoped-for first win of the year. Fine fouled out with 20 seconds left, but when Hank Vetrano missed the first end of the one-and-one, it looked like OT. The Crimson trailed 77-75, but had the all-crucial possession.
Then came Bentley's Bower, and the game was over. Jack Sparks hit both ends of a one-and-one, and Brian Banks dropped in a lay-up in the last three seconds, but by that point it was unimportant.
After the game, McLaughlin hailed one of the referees in the corridor and said, "We're going to win one of these games."
And surely, the Crimson five will do just that. But last night, it simply was not meant to be
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