AMHERST, Mass. -- Pittsfield coach Brandon Mauer had his misgivings about his team’s defensive performance on Saturday at Curry Hicks Cage.
But when the Generals really needed a stop, senior Kymani Harley stepped up and preserved a 56-52 win over Mahar at the Pioneer Valley Tipoff.
The Senators spent the fourth quarter erasing nearly all of an eight-point deficit and had all the momentum on their side when Harley missed the back end of a one-and-one to keep it a two-point margin, 54-52, with 12 seconds left to play.
Mahar got the rebound, and after a timeout, made the inbounds pass, having to go the length of the court for the tying or go-ahead shot. As the Senators brought the ball over half court, Harley went to guard the ballcarrier and drew a foul against a different Mahar player for attempting to set a screen.
Two ticks later, Harley himself was fouled with the ball, and this time, he drained both ends of his one-and-one to give Pittsfield a four-point margin with 4.6 seconds left. Mahar could not get a good look at the basket, and the Generals celebrated their first win of the young season.
“I have a lot of faith in Kymani,” Mauer said. “He’s a leader all the way around. That was a big play there. And to come back and catch that ball and make two free throws to put us through, that was what we needed.”
Craig Jackson led Pittsfield with 27 points and 15 rebounds.
Sincere Moorer scored seven points and passed out five assists, and Harley had seven rebounds to go with his seven points.
For most of the game, Pittsield held Mahar at arm’s length after an 11-2 run to grab a 19-9 lead late in the first quarter.
Harley started that run with a defensive rebound and a transition basket.
Pittsfield then hit 3-pointers on three of its next four possessions, getting triples from Moorer, Jackson and Tobias Gaulden-Wheeler.
Pittsfield hit five 3s in the first quarter and seven in the first half, which ended in a 33-25 lead for the Generals.
Jackson had three of those first-half 3s.
“He was big,” Mauer said. “He gave us a spark right from the start. We’re going to be tough to beat if they can continue to knock down shots. La’Quan [Brown, six points] shot well to start, too.”
Jackson was on fire to start the third quarter, scoring Pittsfield’s first 12 points of the second half. He gave his team its biggest lead of the night at 45-34 with just more than two minutes left in the third.
Mahar answered with a 10-2 run that spanned the third and fourth quarters and got the deficit down to three.
But Pittsfield responded: a Marlon Binns bucket in the post and a 3-pointer from Jackson in the corner off a kickout from Harley again made it an eight-point margin with 4 minutes, 35 seconds on the clock.
Mahar kept fighting, getting an 8-1 run to draw within a point when Jake Tenney (12 points) hit a free throw with 52 seconds on the clock to make it 53-52.
Harley had a steal on Mahar’s next possession and got to the line with 12 seconds left, making the front end of a one-and-one and setting the stage for his closing heroics.
Pittsfield (1-1) gets a few well deserved days off after playing twice in less than 24 hours to open the season. It’s next game is Friday at the Boys and Girls Club against Mount Anthony Union of Bennington, Vt.
“Last night’s game affected their legs right off the bat, but they gutted through it,” Mauer said. “It was what I was expecting, and I was happy they were able to pull it out and execute at the end there.
“A lot of defensive miscues today. You could see it on their closeouts, you could see it on their help. The hustle just wasn’t there like the night before. We have a lot of film to watch, let’s put it that way.”