Lucky Jones didn't necessarily want to be the hero Saturday in Robert Morris' 71-70 overtime win against St. Francis at Sewall Center.
But, when leading scorer Karvel Anderson launched a potential winning 3-point shot in the waning seconds of overtime, Jones was arriving under the basket.
"I was hoping that he was going to make the shot," Jones said. "I saw it partially get tipped. I was trying to look in the air to see where it was actually at. I was just trying to catch it and go with it."
He watched as the ball hung on the rim, and, for the blink of an eye, it was unclear whether it was going to drop into the net or into Jones' hands.
"I said, 'Please go in,' " Jones said.
"When I finally saw it dropping, I couldn't really think anymore because the crowd was so loud and everyone was jumping up and down," Jones said.
His layup with two seconds left in overtime secured not only Robert Morris' sixth win in a row, but also clinched the Northeast Conference regular-season title in the team's final home game before the league tournament.
The Colonials (18-11, 13-1) are assured of the home-court advantage throughout the conference tournament and, in the event they don't win it and advance to the NCAA tournament, they are guaranteed an invitation to the National Invitation Tournament.
"To clinch the regular-season championship on senior night in this type of game, with the type of emotions we had going into it, I'm just proud of my guys," said Anderson, a senior, who had game highs of 31 points and 42 minutes.
"We stayed together through everything. There were a lot of times during the game, especially in the first half, where we could have fallen apart."
Robert Morris fell behind, 11-6, then, 16-8, and trailed at halftime, 37-31.
Brent Jones and Kevin Douglas hit 3-pointers to open the second half to give the Terriers their biggest lead at 43-31.
The Colonials chipped away with a 19-6 run and took a 50-49 lead. Lucky Jones and Anderson had eight points each in the run.
A 3-point attempt by Anderson at the buzzer to end regulation missed, and the teams went to overtime tied at 62-62.
Robert Morris scored the first five points of overtime, on a jumper by David Appolon and an Anderson 3.
"I can't tell you how big that dunk was, how big that 3 was," Lucky Jones said.
Still, the teams remained close, and St. Francis took a 70-69 lead on Jalen Cannon's three-point play with 12.8 seconds left.
The Terriers called a timeout, each team setting up what they hoped would either preserve or produce a win.
Lucky Jones set a screen for Anderson, then did what his coaches had told him to do.
"As soon as it left [Anderson's] hand, I knew it was short," Robert Morris coach Andy Toole said. "I just didn't think he had his legs under him. He had to shoot it. "
Lucky Jones finished with 14 points for Robert Morris, and Anthony Myers-Pate added 12. Cannon and Lowell Ulmer each scored 18 for St. Francis.
As the players headed upstairs at the arena shortly after the game, Myers-Pate had a message for Lucky Jones.
"I told Lucky probably 50 times, 'I love you. I love you to death,' " he said.
Colonials center Stephan Hawkins surprised just about everyone, with the exception of himself, by not only playing on a sprained ankle but also starting and getting 5 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 points in 31 minutes.
"It was pretty much him saying, 'I'm going to go out and play and help my team however I can,' " Toole said. "I didn't know what we were going to get out of him. I thought maybe if we could get 15-18 [minutes], that would be great."
Shelly Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly.
Shelly Anderson: email@example.com, 412-263-1721 or Twitter @pgshelly. First Published February 22, 2014 6:09 PM