By Paul Gotham
ALBANY, NY — To call a timeout, or not to call a timeout. That was the question facing Mitch Buonaguro. The Siena Saints head men’s basketball coach chose the latter, and in that he found favor.
Rakeem Brookins beat the buzzer with a three-pointer that was one third unlikely, another part ironic and an added dose of Buonaguro’s instinct.
Brookins found himself with the ball in his hands and less than ten ticks remaining on the clock in a tie game. The redshirt sophomore guard went the length of the floor and hit the game-winner as Siena came back from 13 down to defeat the Canisius Golden Griffins in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference action at the Times Union Center, Friday night.
That the Saints had three timeouts remaining only contributed the drama. Buonaguro waved Brookins with a thrust of his arm. Whether that was enough ruse to deceive the Canisius defense will not be known. Brookins hesitated as he approached his team bench before switching gears to step into the game-winner.
“I noticed that we had three or four timeouts left, so I wasn’t sure if Coach B. wanted a timeout,” Brookins explained. “I looked at him, and he said ‘just go.’ I looked up at the clock and let the shot fly.”
Replays showed the ball leaving the hands of Brookins with .8 remaining on the clock.
“By far that’s the biggest shot I’ve hit in my life.”
The shot was made by possible when Buonaguro stayed out of the way and allowed the play to happen.
“He made a shot like that against Northern Kentucky,” Buonaguro said. “He’s a really good late game player especially in here. He had some really great games late, so I had a feel. It was more of a sense, a gut feeling that he was going to do something good.”
That the ball was in the hands of Brookins and not those of Evan Hymes was somewhat remarkable. Hymes had led the Saints back from 13 down with a barrage of threes. Still it was Brookins, who had hit just one of five behind the arc prior to his game-winner.
“Ryan (Oliver) got the rebound,” Brookins recounted. “Ryan was actually throwing it to Evan, but my hand was right there, and I just took it.”
Brookins drove the left side of the floor before finishing in front of the Siena bench.
“It was a gut feeling. I usually do call a timeout, Buonaguro added. “My instinct tonight was not to. I thought he had a little bit of an edge on the drive, and he does make tough shots. Obviously, he made it, and we’re lucky. It was a great win.”
For Canisius, the Golden Griffins came out on the wrong end this time of a decision based upon a coach’s instincts. It was Jim Baron earlier this year that called for a zone defense on a final possession to defeat St. Bonaventure.
“I thought they were looking for the timeout,” Baron said of Friday’s final play. “As a matter of fact, I thought it was a timeout.”
The win snapped an 11-game losing streak for the Saints.
Canisius falls to 3-2 in the MAAC and 10-6 overall.