PIPPA PASSES, Ky. — Poor free throw shooting — and the ability to score consistently — had plagued the University of Rio Grande seemingly from the outset of the 2021-22 season.
Unfortunately, the transition into post-season play didn’t prevent those same beasts from rearing their ugly heads one last time.
The RedStorm battled from start to finish but came up on the short end of an 82-80 triple-overtime decision to Alice Lloyd College in the quarterfinal round of the River States Conference Men’s Basketball Championship, Wednesday night, at the Perry Campus Center.
Rio Grande, the No. 3 seed from the East Division, finished 16-14 with the loss — its seventh setback of seven points or less and its fourth by three points or fewer.
Alice Lloyd, the West Division No. 2 seed, upped its record to 25-4 as a result of the win and will move on to face West Virginia University-Tech in Saturday’s semifinal round.
Both teams had 32 total field goals in the contest — although Rio Grande did finish a combined 5-for-21 from the floor in the overtime periods — and the RedStorm had six more three-pointers (10-4), but the Eagles got to the free throw line seven more times than their guests — 22 to 15 — and outscored Rio, 14-6.
“We missed some shots, but the free throws have doomed us all year,” said Rio Grande head coach Ryan Arrowood. “Losing stinks, but I’m proud of our effort. They guys played hard until the end.”
The RedStorm trailed 30-29 at halftime, but rallied to build a 13-point lead, 58-45, following a layup by sophomore Shiloah Blevins (South Webster, OH) with 8:12 left in regulation.
The Eagles mounted a major comeback, though, and forged a 62-all tie with 36 seconds left after Damon Tobler scored off of the rebound of his own missed free throw.
During the nearly eight-minute stretch, Rio Grande went 2-for-11 from the floor.
The RedStorm still had a chance to win at the close of regulation, but were whistled for a five-second inbounds violation on the baseline to the right of their own basket with three seconds left.
Rio also had the final shot in the first overtime period, but Tobler rejected a layup by freshman Caleb Wallis (Jackson, OH).
Alice Lloyd grabbed its biggest lead of the night in the second extra session at 74-70, but the RedStorm eventually tied the game again at 76-76 on two free throws by Blevins with 17 seconds remaining.
The Eagles elected to play for the final shot and the win, but committed a turnover with one second left to bring about the third overtime.
Rio again tied the game at 80-80 with 1:17 left on free throws by Blevins, but ALC took the lead for good when Noah Young hit one of two free throws with 51 seconds to play and then added on to the advantage by doing the same with 28 seconds left.
The RedStorm had the ball last, but a would-be, game-winning three-pointer by Wallis was off the mark and the Eagles’ Will Philpot snared the rebound as time expired for the dramatic finish.
Sophomore Miki Tadic (Hilversum, The Netherlands) led Rio Grande with a game-high 26 points, 18 of which came from his six three-pointers. His 96 trifectas are currently tied for fourth nationally.
Tadic also finished with a game-high seven assists.
Blevins tallied 18 points and 10 rebounds in the loss, while Wallis had 14 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
Freshman Khamani Smith (Fort Wayne, IN) added 10 points, while sophomore Taylor Mack (Akron, OH) and freshman Exauce Manissa (Point Noire, The Congo) had 13 and 10 rebounds, respectively.
Ben Soumahoro led a quartet of double-digit scorers for Alice Lloyd with 25 points, while Young dropped in 20 to go along with five assists and Tobler had 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Philpot contributed 11 points and 12 rebounds to the winning effort.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director for the University of Rio Grande.