Springfield, Mo. -- Mael Amenyedzi's layup off a Lonnie Boga, length-of-the-floor baseball pass with less than two seconds left lifted No. 2 Drury to a 54-52 victory over No. 16 Wisconsin-Parkside in a Great Lakes Valley Conference thriller between division leaders Thursday night at the O'Reilly Family Event Center.
The Panthers improved to 21-1 overall and 13-1 in the GLVC by winning their 22nd consecutive game at The O' - and one that could go a long ways in determining whether the defending national champions get to host an NCAA-II Midwest Regional there for a second straight year. The East-leading Rangers fell to 19-4 and 12-2.
That Coach Steve Hesser's Panthers pulled yet another one out late should come as no surprise, since they've now won their last 12 games decided by five points or less, including a 9-0 record in those games this season.
But this time, the drama in the end was even a little more heightened.
Boga, a former star receiver in football in high school at McCluer in St. Louis, morphed back to his days as a jayvee and freshman quarterback, throwing a perfect strike the length of the floor to the 6-foot-6 Amenyedzi, the native of France - who has never played football - but went up like a big, strong tight end and caught it near the left block, spun and laid it off the glass to the delight of the crowd of 2,017 at The O'.
As the DU players and fans celebrated and the clock ran out, game officials huddled to decide how much time to put back on after a Parkside timeout was given. They settled on 1.4 seconds; a desperation, three-quarters court effort by the Rangers fell harmlessly way, and the Panthers had their 44th victory in their last 45 games, and their 30th in their last 31 outings against teams from the GLVC.
"Thank you fans, thank you student body for giving us the energy late and the wherewithall to stay in there," Hesser said. "Parkside's a very good basketball team. We worked all week on pace ... we want the other team to say, 'would you slow down?' and we didn't play at that pace tonight.
"It wasn't our (lack of) defense or rebounding, it was our ineffective offense tonight. We've got to get that ironed out."
Kameron Bundy finished with 16 points to lead three Panthers in double-figures, while Wendell Pierre had the best game of his brief DU career with bests of 12 points and 13 rebounds to go with three steals in 26 minutes off the bench.
"Wendell would get another game ball tonight ... that's about three of 'em here of late," Hesser said. "Just a tremendous effort by Wendell."
Cameron Adams added 11 points for DU, which shot a season-worst 36 percent (22 of 61), but held the Rangers - the nation's leader in FG percentage - to just .395 (17 of 43).
The Panthers and Rangers battled to a 27-all tie at the half, but Parkside had the early momentum in the second half, grabbing an eight-point lead (39-31) on Andy Mazurczak's jumper with 12:57 to go. Mazurczak led the Rangers with 18 points.
But the Panthers pulled even at 43-all on Adams' layup with 7:13 left, and yet another battle down the stretch for DU was on.
Pierre's jumper with 2:01 to go gave DU a 52-50 lead - its first since the closing seconds of the first half, and that held til the game's final 10 seconds. Boga was at the line with a chance to potentially put DU up four with nine seconds to go.
But Boga missed the front-end of the one-and-one, and the Rangers answered with two free throws from Mazurczak with two seconds left after Adams was whistled for his fifth foul.
Then, after a DU timeout, came the final heroics,, and not without a huge dose of irony - the Panthers were in a simliar situation in the closing seconds of overtime last season against Parkside, when they threw deep on the same play to All-America guard Alex Hall, who got crossed up on how much time was left, pulled up at the free-throw line, and missed the potential game-winner in a 90-88 loss to the Rangers.
That was January 5, 2012 ... the last time the Panthers dropped a game at The O'.'
This was Amenyedzi's fifth field goal of the season, only shot attempt of the night and easily the biggest moment of his career for the reserve who plays an average of 3.3 minutes per game, but doubled that on Thursday with Carter and Adams in foul difficulties, and both eventually fouling out in the closing minutes.
Led by the 6-foot-2 Pierre's 13 boards, Drury held a final 36-35 rebounding advantage. Zygimantas Riauka had 13 points and 10 rebounds and Colt Grandstraff added 12 points for the Rangers, who had 21 turnovers to Drury's 14.
Next for the Panthers comes one final regular season challenge at home, as No. 19 Lewis visits on Saturday (3:15 p.m.) tipoff for Senior Day and Homecoming festivities. Seniors Ian Carter, Boga, Amenyedzi and Shane Rudman will be honored in pre-game festivities.
"I really wish people would come out Saturday for Senior Day," Hesser said. "Ian Carter and Shane Rudman are four-year guys here, and that's a lot of blood, sweat and tears. Not to take anything away from Lonnie and Mael, but those four-year guys in our program are prety special. I hope we can send all four of those guys out the right way."
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