Washington & Jefferson College junior guard Mike Resnik showed Thursday night that he has the knack for the dramatic.
And then some.
Resnik sent the Presidents’ non-conference basketball game against Juniata into overtime with a layup and a free throw with four seconds remaining in regulation. Resnik then sent the game into double overtime by making a game-tying three-pointer with just 1.2 seconds left in the first extra five-minute period.
Finally, Resnik gave the Presidents the lead for good with a three-point play in the second overtime as W&J erased a 17-point second-half deficit and came back for a 79-73 victory at Henry Memorial Center.
“We needed plays,” Resnik said. “There’s really not enough time left in either situation to think about it. I just had to get the ball up. That was a big win for us. It’s nice to go to the break at 6-3.”
Resnik scored 15 points on his night of heroics, helping the Presidents continue a solid start to the season. Resnik helped the Presidents (6-3) quickly forget about a 26-point loss they were dealt Monday at Saint Vincent.
“He just has that look about him,” said W&J head coach Glenn Gutierrez. “He has been making big shots since he was a freshman. In the huddle at the end of regulation, his eyes were popping out of his head as if to say he was going to make a big shot and not let us lose.”
Things didn’t exactly go W&J’s way for most of the night.
Both teams struggled offensively during the early going, but the Presidents jumped out to their biggest lead of the first half, 17-13, 10 minutes into the game.
However, W&J went cold after that. The Presidents went close to six minutes without scoring a point as Juniata (8-2) pieced together an 11-0 run to take a 24-17 lead. Juniata finished the half by outscoring W&J 19-4 to take a 32-21 lead into the locker room.
The Presidents struggled as a group in the first half, making only eight of 32 (25 percent) shots, with many misses coming on rushed jump shots.
“We didn’t have the greatest shot selection in the first half,” said Gutierrez. “We rushed a lot of shots and just settled for the first shot a lot of times. We settled things down in the second half, tweaked our rotations a bit and the ball started going in.”
Meanwhile, the Eagles shot 50 percent (15-for-30) from the floor in the first half with most of their success coming off high percentage looks in the lane and in transition.
“That was the big emphasis at halftime,” added Gutierrez. “A guy like Jeremy Hays made his first six shots and they were all layups. We are a defensive team first and we had to get that cleaned up quick.”
W&J’s leading scorer, Nate Bellhy, got going in the second half, playing a big role in the Presidents’ comeback. He finished with a game-high 21 points to go along with 14 rebounds.
“Nate is very tough to guard,” said Gutierrez. “He ended up settling for shots early on, but he had that look in his eyes at halftime that he wasn’t going to be denied. He had a great night at both ends of the floor.”
The second half didn’t start much better for W&J as the Presidents dug themselves a 17-point hole.
The Presidents showed guts though and dug in on the defensive end. Juniata suffered through a lengthy scoring drought of their own late in the second half, allowing the Presidents to start chipping at the lead.
A three-pointer by Doug Johnson cut the Juniata lead to eight with nine minutes to play, and after a layup and a pair of free throws by Bellhy the Presidents were within 53-49.
“First and foremost, we are a defensive team,” said Resnik. “We just had to dig in and start getting stops. We knew the shots would start falling.”
Johnson made another three with 18.8 seconds left to pull W&J to within one, but the Presidents weren’t able to foul and stop the clock and allowed a layup at the other end to make it a three-point game.
That’s when Resnik had the presence of mind to not hesitate and take the ball right to the basket to make the first of his big plays and force overtime.
“There was about 11 seconds left when I started,” Resnik said. “Initially, I thought if I could get to the basket and make the layup, we would still have time to foul and extend the game. Luckily for us, I drew some contact on the play.”
W&J grabbed a quick lead in the first overtime on a jumper by Brett Rubin-Goldstein but was playing catch-up again until Resnik tied the game at 66-66 with his late three.
It wasn’t until the second overtime, after holding Juniata to only 2-of-13 shooting in the overtimes, that W&J had a lead of more than one possession.
“We kept saying that if we could ever get that lead to two possessions we would be OK,” Gutierrez said. “Quite simply, that was just a fantastic college basketball game. You can go home and watch games on TV all weekend and not see a better game than that. Neither team deserved to lose that one.”
Johnson chipped in 15 points and Haas added 14 and nine assists.
Kevin Stapleton led Juniata with 20 points.