The Hobart College basketball team trailed throughout the first 26 minutes of the game and by as many as 10 points to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, but rallied to a 72-63 victory in the Liberty League Tournament Championship game. The Most Outstanding Player, Statesmen junior guard Joe Gibbons, led the rally with 17 second half points.
In the pivotal second half, Hobart (21-6) shot 50 percent from the floor, made 19-of-22 free throws, and controlled the boards (25-20) while committing just five turnovers. The rally started following a layup by senior forward Cedric White that gave RPI a 36-28 lead with 16:37 remaining. It would be nearly five minutes before the Engineers (17-10) put another point on the board.
Meanwhile, the Statesmen scored 14 unanswered points. Gibbons, senior guard Stefan Thompson, and junior forward Richie Bonney accounted for all of the Hobart points. Bonney sandwiched field goals around four straight points from Thompson to tie the game at 36-all with 13:55 to go. At the other end of the floor, Thompson came up with a steal that led to a trip to the free throw line for Gibbons. He converted both for a 38-36 lead, the first of the day for the Statesmen, who have won a school record 13 in a row and 12 in a row at home in Bristol Gym.
RPI misfired at the other end of the floor and Bonney controlled the rebound, leading to a jumper for Thompson that made it 40-36. Gibbons capped the run with two more free throws and a 42-36 lead with 11:46 remaining. In a little over a minute, senior guard Erik Hatton, who scored a team-high 12 points, made a jumper and drained a 3-pointer to pull the Engineers within three, but Hobart responded with a 13-1 run that inflated the home team’s edge to 15, 57-42, with 6:08 left. Thompson and Gibbons took the reins with the senior scoring the first six points, followed by seven in a row from the junior. Thompson recorded 18 points and a game-high five assists. Gibbons also had 18 points and nine rebounds.
Still trailing by 10, 60-50, with 3:43 left, RPI made a last ditch effort to extend its eight-game winning streak. A 10-3 run, including four points from junior guard Pat Harrington, trimmed Hobart lead to just three. Senior guard Jamie Zajac (10 points) sank a trey to make it a 63-60 game with 1:51 to go. Bonney, who finished with a game-high 22 points and 11 rebounds, made it a two possession game with a layup at the other end of the floor.
From there, the Statesmen made 7-of-8 free throws to ice its second conference championship and first since 2000-01.
Hobart held a 46-42 edge on the glass. Sophomore guard Connor Rehbaum recorded a game-high 13 rebounds, eight points, and a game-high four steals.
The Engineers got a Zajac trey to open the scoring and never trailed in the first 20 minutes. Senior forward Daniel Martin, White, and junior Nick Keefe converted field goals in succession to help RPI build its largest lead of the game, 26-16, with 4:59 left in the opening period. Hobart got back within six on a layup by Bonney with 53 ticks left, but Hatton made a layup with 6 seconds left to send the visitors into the break with an eight points lead, 32-24.
The Engineers shot 41.7 percent in the first half and held the Statesmen to just 25.8 percent.
The championship and its accompanying automatic bid to the NCAA Championship, puts Hobart in the big dance for the second straight year. Last season, the Statesmen earned an at-large bid and advanced to the second round before falling in overtime to fifth-ranked Cabrini.
The team will travel to Providence, R.I., to take on Rhode Island College in the first round of the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Championship on Saturday, March 2. Ticket prices will be announced later in the week. WHWS-FM (105.7 in Geneva) will broadcast the game live. Fans will also be able to follow the contest online with Live Stats and Live Video on NCAA.com.
Liberty League All-Tournament
Most Outstanding Player, Joe Gibbons, Hobart
Stefan Thompson, Hobart
Jamie Zajac, RPI
Daniel Martin, RPI
Keven Donohue, Union
Aldin Medunjanin, Skidmore
Hobart’s 13 consecutive wins eclipsed the school record of eight, set by the 2000-01 Statesmen … Hobart’s 12 straight home court wins are also a program record, surpassing the 11 in a row recorded by the 2000-01 Statesmen … Coincidentally, the 2000-01 Hobart team also defeated RPI to the then named Upstate Collegiate Athletic Association (renamed the Liberty League in 2004) Championship … Hobart has overcome three double digit deficits to win this season, twice against RPI.