For the Randolph-Macon women, it was a learning experience for a team on the rise.
For the Randolph-Macon men, it was a devastating blow for a team primed for a deep run in March.
The women's team were soundly defeated by a fundamentally-sound Messiah College team 91-62 in New Jersey Friday evening to finish their season at 23-6. The Jackets finished second in the regular season, and went into the tournament as the ODAC Tourney Champions.
Patrick Henry duo Taylor Huber and Katie Anderson led Randolph-Macon with 16 and 13 points, while Hannah Livermon added 10.
In front of a jam-packed Crenshaw Gymnasium crowd, the DeSales Bulldogs came to Ashland and avenged a loss from four years ago.
Teams change, so comparison isn't there. But tonight, the Bulldogs found a way to stop Randolph-Macon down low, holding Andre Simon to six points in his final game as a Jacket. A sterling free throw performance by senior guards Mike Coleman and Kyle Hash in the final minutes of regulation and overtime helped DeSales upset the Yellow Jackets 76-70.
"Credit DeSales. They made plays when they needed to, and we didn't do that," Randolph-Macon head coach Nathan Davis said, giving Coleman, who finished with a game-high 29 points, full credit. "He hits a deep three in overtime with a hand in his face, he hits a jumper on the baseline that was fully contested. It wasn't bad defense on our part. He made plays."
Coleman, and Hash, who ended with 26 points, gave full praise to their teammates down low for the defense that held Simon, Joe Hassell and Akeem Holmes to 16 points in the low post.
"Their defense kept us in the game in the first half," Hash noted.
So did a cold stretch for the Jackets. Up 27-18 with 4:00 to go, Randolph-Macon went scoreless the rest of the half, allowing DeSales to cut the lead to two at 27-25.
"We felt coming in that if we could keep it close in the first half, be 3-4 points either way with 7, 8 minutes left, we'd have a shot," DeSales head coach Scott Coval said.
Mission accomplished. In fact, the Bulldogs held a 60-55 lead with a minute to play, but fouled Trent Walker with 50 seconds left. Walker made both free throws for a 60-57 game.
In Randolph-Macon's best defensive possession of the night, the Jackets played the full shot clock, denied the Bulldogs the basket, and got the ball with 11.9 seconds left down three.
In a play Davis said he's run since his days at Bucknell, Chris Hamilton got the ball, and, with a DeSales Bulldog draped all over him, he hit the trey with 4 seconds left to force the extra session.
In a stunning admission, Coval said he believed Hamilton may have been fouled on the play. Had that been called, there may not have been overtime.
But the Jackets went cold again in the extra session, falling behind by as many as nine, watching their season slip away with every made Hash or Coleman free throw. The Bulldogs finished 25-of-28 at the line.
The season ends in harsh fashion for the Jackets, especially for seniors Simon and Jamie Robinson, who did not play in the game. Simon, the 40th player in school history to score 1,000 points, says he'll remember his teammates and the good times the most from his four years.
Tonight, for Simon, Davis, and Yellow Jacket Nation, will be tough to overcome for a long time. But Randolph-Macon returns everyone else next season, and, if Hassell and Holmes are able to take care of business down low, a sixth consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament is certainly a possibility.
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