January 01 2016
The Elmira College men's basketball team secured one the most thrilling victories the program has witnessed in recent memory, as the Soaring Eagles returned to action against Endicott College in the second day of the Salem State Holiday Tournament on Wednesday evening. Senior guard Justin Henderson '16 sank a shot at the final horn to lift Elmira to its second victory of the season by a final score of 62-59.
Trailing for much of the game, Elmira slowly whittled the Gulls lead, which at one point was as large as 13 points, during the second half. Gino Leonardi '16 did the heavy lifting down the stretch, scoring 13 of his team-high 18 points during the second stanza. Down by three with under 10 seconds remaining, the senior guard knocked down a huge triple to pull Elmira level for the first time since early in the first half.
The Gulls looked to have the final chance to break the deadlock in regulation. Endicott's Max Motroni took the inbounds pass and blazed down the middle of the court for a final shot; however, he lost his handle of the ball as he pulled up around the top of the arc. The ball fell right into the hands of Henderson, who nearly instantaneously fired a three-quarter court shot that found nothing but nylon, as the final buzzer blared. The Elmira bench erupted, mobbing Henderson at center court.
The late field goal capped an incredible second half for the Soaring Eagles. Elmira trailed by double-digits four separate occasions during the second stanza, while the deficit stood at nine with just under seven minutes to play. The Purple and Gold would launch a furious rally to close the gap, outscoring the Gulls 16-to-6 over the final 6:48 of regulation.
The game got off to a slow start offensively, as both teams failed to convert chances during the opening minutes. The game was tied at 11-11 over halfway through the first half; however, the Gulls would string together an 11-to-3 run to gain some separation. The Elmira deficit would grow as high as 10 during the opening half; however, in a sign of things to come, Leonardi would cut the deficit to eight at the break on a layup at the buzzer.