Every single fan in the packed Juhan Gymnasium was sitting on the edge of their seats as the second half of the men’s basketball game was nearing a close on Friday night until Sean McDonough (C’21) hit a game-winner to give the Sewanee Tigers a 99-96 win over archrival Rhodes College. With 2.2 seconds remaining, the freshman from Alpharetta, Georgia came up big for his team in a must-win conference matchup.
Entering Friday night’s game, both teams had a lot at stake. A win for Rhodes would give the Lynx a season-sweep of the Tigers and the emotional victory of defeating their rival, while a win for Sewanee would ultimately move the Tigers into a first-place tie atop the Southern Athletic Association.
The last time that the two programs met, the Lynx pulled off a 124-120 upset over the Tigers in Memphis, so the Tigers were looking for revenge.
The two teams exchanged leads for the first ten minutes of the contest until the Lynx put together a small run to go into the locker room at halftime with a 57-51 lead. The second half proved a much better one for the Tigers. After point guard Luke Smith (C’21) tied the game at 63-63, the Tigers put together an impressive 16-3 run to give them the biggest lead of the night.
The pesky Lynx and their up-tempo offense replied with a run of their own to tie the game with 23 seconds left. Junior forward Daniel Darst missed a game-winning free throw for the Lynx, giving the Tigers one more chance before the contest would head into overtime. Then, McDonough hit the dagger to seal the game.
“It felt great to hit the game-winner, especially against our rival,” McDonough said. “The crowd and our team’s energy made it extremely memorable.”
It was definitely a team effort for Sewanee. Forward Adrian Thomas (C’20) continued his all-conference campaign by dropping a career-high 32 points while also adding 13 rebounds. Forward/guard Cam Caldwell (C’19) also posted a double-double with 12 points and 10 boards, and point guard Hunter Buescher (C’19) showed everyone in attendance his clutchness by going perfect from the free throw line with nine out of nine free throws made.
“Coach Hedge provided us with a great game plan, and we executed it very well leading to the big win,” Buescher said, speaking of Coach Mick Hedgepeth. “Now, we have our minds focused on beating Hendrix.”
The win gives the Tigers a 10-8 overall record (6-2 SAA) and a share of first place with Birmingham-Southern, Oglethorpe, and Centre. After hosting Hendrix College on January 28, they do not have a home game until Friday, February 9 against Oglethorpe, which will be Senior Night, recognizing the contributions of Taylor Howell (C’18).