At first there was frustration, then elation. Then frustration again, followed by hope and confusion. But ultimately there was pain and agony.
For the Manhattan College Jaspers, the final four seconds of the game against the Rider Broncs in the opening round of the MAAC Tournament were a seesaw of emotions. Rider’s Jimmie Taylor double-clutched and hit a 3-pointer with four seconds remaining to give the Broncs a 69-68 lead. Manhattan’s Zavier Turner then came down the court and looked to have hit a game-winning layup, but after a review, the basket was deemed no good as the shot came a fraction of a second too late.
But as the Jaspers thought about walking off, the refs went back to review whether Taylor’s foot was on the three-point line, which if it was, it would have turned his three into a two and sent the game into overtime. But after a lengthy review the referees decided that there was inconclusive evidence to overturn the call. The ruling meant the end of the game and the end of Manhattan’s season.
“Unfortunately sometimes you have to go through this,” Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello said. “You have to go through this. You have to feel this so the next time at 6 a.m. and you say, ‘Should I get up and get up 500 makes,’ you have a comparison to make.”
After the game, a distraught group of Manhattan players spoke about the loss. Masiello admitted that the locker room was full of players in tears. One of those players affected by the loss was senior Tyler Wilson, who was part of two MAAC titles in his career.
“I just hope everybody thought I played as hard as I could every night and I gave it all I got,” Wilson said.
To Masiello, Wilson will be remembered as a leader. Such a leader that Masiello revealed that he offered Wilson a spot on his coaching staff for next season.
“I’ve never complimented Tyler in four years,” Masiello said. “I’ve by far coached him the hardest and I can be pretty hard on guys. I think 70 percent of the time I got on him, I got on him because [other] guys couldn’t handle it, so I would get on Tyler. He is so selfless. He sacrificed his body, his time, his success for other people. He’s the epitome of what you want from a student-athlete on and off the court.”
Wilson scored 10 points and was one of four Jaspers in double figures. Aaron Walker Jr. led the way with 18 points, including a go-ahead basket for Manhattan with 18 seconds remaining. The freshman guard often had the ball in his hands down the stretch, displaying the potential that made him a highly touted recruit. Despite his performance, Walker Jr. was hard on himself after the game.
“It’s been a tough year for me,” Walker Jr. said. “I feel like I’ve learned a lot from everything that’s happened this year, and I’m just looking forward to next year.”
Manhattan found itself down for most of the game, after being dominated on the glass, 35-24. But with the Jaspers down, 55-45, Wilson’s layup ignited a 7-0 run that trimmed the deficit to three. Manhattan gained some momentum and shortly after took the lead.
After Walker Jr.’s layup gave Manhattan a 68-66 lead, Taylor came down and hit a three-pointer that was nearly blocked by Walker Jr. Manhattan made the case that Taylor’s foot was on the line, but the referees could not gather enough evidence to change the call and the Broncs escaped with the one-point win.
“I trust these guys, they’re professionals at what they do,” Masiello said about the officials. “They’re very good. I have too much respect for how they do things. I’m going to look more at what could we have done better not to put us in that situation.”
Manhattan will lose just one senior in Wilson for next season, and counts on the return of Rich Williams, the team’s best player who missed this season with a knee injury. However, Masiello is cautious in declaring that the experiences in 2017 will make Manhattan better next season.
“A year older doesn’t mean a year better if you don’t grow as people,” Masiello said. “I’m not worried about the basketball, I’m worried about us as people growing. I believe we’ll do that, so I’m optimistic about it.”