CLINTON — Ashford wishes it would have finished Saturday’s game the way it started.
The Saints fell to the Northern New Mexico Eagles 51-48 in the Association of Independent Institutions tournament championship, and a big reason why the No. 23 Saints lost was because of a late 14-3 Northern New Mexico run.
“We had guys who weren’t ready to go, and that falls all on me,” Ashford coach Oliver Drake said. “When you’re not ready in a win-or-go-home situation in a conference championship game, that’s really disappointing, and as the head coach, I’ll take the blame.”
Before that run, the Saints went on their own little run that gave them momentum with six minutes to go.
At the 7:39 mark, Ashford guard Damon Overton threw an alley-oop pass to Tevin Harris that gave the Saints a 42-39 lead.
The next time down, Overton hit a 30-foot 3-pointer as time expired on the shot clock, extending the lead to six, and forced the Eagles to call timeout. The fans in Kehl Arena were on their feet thinking that their team would be celebrating another tournament title. The women’s team won before the men’s game.
“We broke the timeout talking about some very basic things that we’ve talked about all year, and we did the opposite,” Drake said. “I thought those two plays gave us the opportunity to position ourselves, and we just did not do our jobs tonight.”
Out of that timeout, the Eagles started to soar of their big run.
“These guys traveled 22 hours on a bus, so that should tell you how tough they really are,” Northern New Mexico coach Ryan Cordova said. “When times got a little tough, they knew they had to make themselves a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich, and go back to school.”