Over the next 10 weeks, Pitt-Bradford athletics will bring you the Top 10 Moments of the 2012-13 school year.
Each week a new moment will debut, featuring insight from coaches, players, and Sports Information Director Scott Elliott. It all leads up to the No. 1 moment in Panther athletics, which will be revealed the week of Aug. 5.
Wednesday, February 16, 2013. A night no one at Pitt-Bradford will soon forget.
It was the final week of the basketball regular season. The women had already clinched a spot in the AMCC tournament. The men, on the other hand, where still fighting for their lives, sitting on the outside just looking in. They needed three wins in the final week to secure a postseason berth, a daunting task for any team. A win over D'Youville two nights before moved the men one step closer to that goal.
That night Medaille was slated to visit the KOA Arena, renewing a tense rivalry on a cold evening in northwest Pennsylvania. In recent memory, the entire athletic department had taken it on the chin in big moments, coming up short each time. That would not be the case on this particular night.
By now, you know the story. The women dominated the Mavericks in the second half and won by eight points. It was a historic win, the first time ever they had defeated Medaille in AMCC play, a span of 17 games. There was also the seven-point loss to the Mavericks in the 2010 AMCC championship game, and just like that, an 18-game losing streak vanquished. For a full recap, click here.
In front a raucous student section, the men rallied to defeat the Mavericks in the final seconds. Sophomore Keith Burgess collected a tipped inbounds pass from senior Jesse DeLoof and laid it in with five seconds remaining. Medaille missed on its final attempt, and the students poured onto the floor, meeting the team at half court for an impromptu celebration. Again, here's the recap if you're interested.
Bradford Era sports writer Andy Close captured the game-winning basket from along the baseline. Watch it. I still get chills, and if you listen close enough, there's a split-second gasp as the ball is bobbled.
But this is not the space to rehash the play-by-play. It's for the players and coaches to tell the story from their own words and what they remember most.
"The Medaille game was the highlight of the year for the basketball programs," said head men's coach Britt Moore. "What made it so special was the success of both teams on one night.
"It was a game we had to win to make the playoffs, and we had the right focus to win."
The women approached their contest as nothing more than the next game on the schedule, including freshman point guard Abby Brate.
"The thing I remember about the game the most is how coach kept telling us to leave it all on the court," said Brate. "Every game we expect that, but when we lost to them the first time, we knew we needed this game and wanted it more than anything."
Guard Allison Osborne, another freshman, reflected her teammate's thoughts.
"We knew the importance of beating Medaille, yet as a team the goal was to go into the game ready to win as we would any other day," Osborne said.
As the final seconds ticked away and victory was in hand, the players recounted their emotions.
"When the time was ticking and we knew we had the game, I looked over and saw the excitement on my teammates' faces and it was great," said Brate. "It was one of the best feelings."
Alicia Kimmel, the team's leading scorer, played with assistant coaches Caitlin Jordan and Hollie Rapp. Jordan and Rapp were on that team that lost to the Mavericks in the AMCC title game. It still stings.
"One thing I remember most about that game were coach CJ and Hollie's faces," said Kimmel, a sophomore. "They were so happy we ran over to the bench and jumped on them, because they were so excited."
Jordan also remembers those final moments.
"I literally remember looking over at Hollie and saying, 'We're going to win this thing,'" Jordan said. "It was awesome to be part of it, because we have come so close in the past, but never could finish it."
For head coach Patrick Daniel, it was a defining win for his young team and a moment he'll always remember.
"Ending an 18-game losing streak to Medaille on this night was a great feeling for our entire team, especially after being so close earlier in the year when we lost to them by one at their place," Daniel said. "The best moment of this game was honestly at the end when I looked at up the scoreboard and it hit me that we won this game.
"I gave a big fist pump knowing that this was one of those defining wins in a season that my team will always remember. This game is one of the best moments I personally experienced all season."
And that was just the undercard to the main event: the men's game.
"This game personified what late-season college basketball should be: the atmosphere, the student section, the importance of the game in our push for the playoffs, and the pure disdain between the two programs," said former Panther and current assistant Jon Hannon.
"Combine all that with the way it unfolded and it's one of the two or three most memorable games I've ever been a part of as a player or coach."
The student section is what most of the men's team will always take away from its dramatic win. Dressed in white T-shirts, the students arrived prior to tip-off and made life uneasy for the visitors. They came prepared with signs, and the Mavericks learned an important lesson when it comes to social media: when your profile is public, embarrassing pictures can and will be used against you.
Everyone in the gym that night understood what was at stake. The students embraced it, and the players fed off their energy.
"One of the big story lines that night was our crowd," said Moore. "Simply put they were fantastic. It gave us a true home court advantage, and the energy when Keith Burgess converted the layup was amazing.
"Our programs are challenging the students to create that atmosphere for the entire 2013-14 season. Now that we know what they are capable of we will not accept anything less."
Sophomore Lucas Pichette recalls the pressure of it being a rivalry game.
"What I remember most about the Medaille game was the incredible atmosphere from our student section on top of the extreme tension of the game being a must-win rivalry game," said Pichette.
Senior Tyler Ferguson was keenly aware of what the student body meant to him and his teammates.
"What I remember most about this game is the crowd," said Ferguson. "In my four years of playing at Pitt-Bradford, I can't remember a game when our fans packed the gym like that and were as loud as that.
"Honestly, without their support on that night, I don't know if we come out on top."
Junior Brandon McClester will never forget the final moments.
"That whole game was intense," McClester said. "The best moment was when Keith [Burgess] caught that tipped inbounds pass from Jesse [DeLoof] and scored the game-winning layup."
That play set the stage for the picture atop this article.
In it, McClester-No. 23-is bracing himself for his onrushing teammates. He'll carry that single instance with him forever, "the crowd rushing the floor."
I've lost count the number of times I've studied this picture. It's captivating. Each person with his or her own story: the Panther dancing; Pichette-the farthest left in pink-meeting the students at half court; the Medaille player in the background suddenly faced with defeat; Ferguson-No. 14-unleashing a celebratory roar. So many smaller scenes blended together on one canvas capturing the defining moment. A moment any Panther is proud to be a part of, because we shared it right there on center court. The proof is in the photo.
Two wins. One moment. #destinationplayoffs.