Hawks Fall in Nail-Biter in Utica, 77-74

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            UTICA, NY – Hartwick's men's basketball team lost in heartbreaking fashion on Tuesday night as host Utica scored the game's final nine points in the last three and a half minutes to pull off a 77-74 win over the Hawks at Doris Wester and Walter E. Miga Court.
            The game is the second straight tight affair between the Hawks and the Pioneers in seven days after 'Wick prevailed in overtime last Tuesday. The two teams split the season series by a total margin of just five points.
            Tommy Kelly's (Niskayuna, NY/Niskayuna) jumper with 4:10 remaining was Hartwick's last points and put the Hawks up 74-68. The Pioneers would then connect on 5-of-6 free throws in a 1:10 span to pull within one with 2:16 left. The Hawks had three possessions with a chance to extend their advantage but they would come up empty.
            Shawn Gashi's jumper from the corner of the free throw line with eight ticks to go would give the Pioneers their first lead since the 5:25 mark of the first half. Kelly would race the ball down the court and drove to the basket for a potential game-winning bucket but he was whistled for a questionable offensive foul which gave the ball back to UC. Tyler Jollie hit two free throws after a 'Wick foul with two seconds left meaning the Hawks would need to go full court for a look at a tying three. Brandon LaForest (Cohoes, NY/Cohoes) got his hands on the ball near the three-point line but his off-balance effort missed the mark and the hosts escaped with the victory.
             Kyle Bradshaw (Tinton Falls, NJ/Brookdale CC) led the Hawks, who finished with 11 three-pointers, with 17 points. He added four rebounds and three shots from downtown. LaForest and Kelly each ended the contest with 13 points. LaForest contributed game-highs of seven assists and seven rebounds. Pat Garey (Johnson City, NY/Johnson City) contributed 10 points with three treys and six boards. Sam Hanley (Cranston, RI/Cranston East) finished with nine points, all on three-pointers.   
            In the first half after the Hawks gained an early lead, the Pioneers grabbed a 7-5 edge and they held the advantage for the next 13 and a half minutes. The largest UC lead was seven as the Hawks kept the score close. The Pioneers were in front 30-26 with 5:43 left in the half before a huge 13-point swing for the Hawks handed them a 39-30 edge. Garey, Kelly, and LaForest nailed consecutive triples in the run. UC scored the final five points and the Hawks entered halftime up 39-35.
            After a brief tie score a minute into the second half, the Hawks regained the lead and kept it until the final minute. They opened up their biggest lead, 57-47, at the 12:14 mark on a Bobby Connors' (Rockville Centre, NY/Chaminade) basket. After UC trimmed the margin to two at 11:03, Hartwick would build leads of eight points three different times over a three-minute window. The final time with 6:39 left on a Garey three made it a 70-62 game. Following a UC timeout, Gashi hit a three and the Pioneers would close on a 15-4 run the rest of the way.
            'Wick shot 45.2% (28-for-62) as a team in the game. The Hawks made 11-of-32 (34.4%) from three-point range. Utica shot 46.4% (26-for-56) as a group and 7-of-15 (46.7%) from deep. The Pioneers had a 33-29 edge in rebounds.
            Utica was led by Gashi's 20 points. Avery Coston added 16 with Jollie notching 11.
            Hartwick returns home for a four-game home stand beginning Friday against Nazareth at 7:30 p.m. from Lambros Arena.

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