The BayHawks wound up on the wrong end of a March Madness buzzer beater last night, losing 101-100 to the Dakota Wizards in an exciting game that was also featured on Versus.
It was a heartbreaking loss for a BayHawks team that included Darnell Jackson on assignment from Cleveland and Cedric Jackson back from his 10-day stint with the San Antonio Spurs. After Mike Sweetney hit 1 of 2 free throws to give Erie a one-point lead with 3.5 seconds remaining, Dakota's Corsley Edwards found Curtis Withers for the game-winning layup as time expired.
The loss dropped Erie to 18-27. Meanwhile, the Wizards improved to 26-19, ever closer to clinching a playoff berth.
The Jacksons led the way for Erie. Cedric had 22 points and 11 assists while Darnell had 32 points and 11 rebounds in his second game with the BayHawks this season. Sweetney added 20 points for the BayHawks. Unfortunately for Erie, the new and returning additions to the roster seemed to throw their rotations and team chemistry a bit out of whack.
Mike Gansey and Blake Ahearn seemed particularly affected by the changes. With Cedric Jackson dominating the ball at the point and Darnell Jackson commanding it in the post, there weren't many touches to go around for what had been the hottest guard tandem in the league. Gansey was held scoreless for the first time since being traded to the BayHawks Dec. 31. He did pitch in with 8 rebounds and 2 steals, but it had to be frustrating for him to get just six shots after averaging more than 24 points a game coming in.
Similarly, Blake Ahearn, who set a BayHawks team record with 38 points on Monday night in Utah and then tied it with 38 again Friday night, struggled to find his rhythm offensively. One night after hitting 7-11 from 3, Ahearn shot 1-5 from 3 and 4-12 overall, while tying his lowest point total as a BayHawk of 13 points. As a team, Erie shot just 1-14 from 3.
I'm not sure exactly where the last two losses would rank on Bill Simmons' Levels of Losing, but they were among the toughest to take as a BayHawks fan this season. Between Friday night saw Erie blow a 17-point fourth-quarter lead and surrender a 10-0 in the final 2:57 to turn a six-point lead into a four-point loss. And Saturday's follow-up was a lesson in how to silence 5,000+ (reported, more realistically 3,000) free-fries-frenzied fans. A layup at the buzzer? That just can't happen. And let's not forget about missing 11 free throws on the night, including a big one that could have made it a two-point game with 3.5 seconds left.
Jackie Manuel missed his third game since returning home for his grandfather's funeral. His absence was never missed more than on the final possession, where they could have used Manuel's stout perimeter defense.
For another perspective on the game, check out Jon L's review of the BayHawks-Wizards game over at Ridiculous Upside. It's always worth reading the comments over there as well.
Next up for the BayHawks is a three-game set against the Fort Wayne Mad Ants on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. All three games will be held in Erie.