There's a chance, and a good one at that, Loyola forward Erik Etherly played his final game at Reitz Arena on Sunday.
He certainly made it memorable.
Etherly scored a career-high 30 points, including a game-sealing dunk in the final minute, to lead the Greyhounds to a 63-61 victory over Manhattan to clinch the No. 3 seed in next weekend's Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament.
"I knew this would possibly be the last home game we'd have here, and I didn't want to go out with a loss," Etherly said. "It happened to me back in high school when I lost on my home court, and I didn't want it to happen here."
Dylon Cormier added 14 points for Loyola (21-10, 12-6 MAAC), which will meet Manhattan again in Saturday's conference quarterfinals in Springfield, Mass.
The regular-season finale, though, belonged to Etherly.
The graduate student averaged 20.9 points on 55.4 percent shooting over the final seven games, a stretch that began shortly after coach Jimmy Patsos stressed to Etherly the importance of the Greyhounds finding an inside scorer.
He had little trouble filling that role against the Jaspers (12-17, 9-9), scoring 19 points in the first half.
"He was an animal coming out of the gates," Cormier said. "I knew it was going to be a good day when he got two or three and-ones in the first half and got a couple dunks. It's his day. It's his last time as a senior playing in this building playing in front of his home crowd. People love him here."
They had even more reason to when he closed out Manhattan in the closing seconds.
Loyola held a 61-57 lead and had possession with 51.4 seconds left after a Jaspers turnover. Manhattan opted to defend without fouling, and the Greyhounds milked almost the entire shot clock after scrapping their original play call because the Jaspers went into a zone.
With two seconds left on the shot clock, Etherly slammed in a slick pass from fellow northern Virginia product Anthony Winbush with 17.1 seconds left to bump the lead to six.
"I just hung out right there on the block and said, 'At some point, I'm going to get open and they're going to lose track of me,'" Etherly said. "It was Virginia-to-Virginia. We've known each other for going on nine years now, so we kind of knew where each other was going to be."
Etherly and the Greyhounds will chase a second straight NCAA bid at the MAAC tournament, but also have the possibility of playing in another event should they stumble while trying to win three games in three days.
"There's no speech today," Patsos said. "This isn't [necessarily] four seniors' last home game. We have lots of games to play. With that win, we'll probably get some kind of postseason bid."
The win didn't come in particularly smooth fashion. After a brief shoving match about a half-hour before the opening tip, the game was tightly officiated. Loyola built a 39-35 edge in a first half that featured 29 fouls.
While the whistles later grew less frequent and the Greyhounds built a 13-point lead, the Jaspers closed the gap before Etherly ensured Loyola would survive in its regular-season finale.
"It all started before the game," Etherly said. "We knew what kind of game it was going to be. The same thing happened last year, so we knew what kind of game it was going to be from the jump. The refs knew it was kind of that kind of chippy, call-30-fouls-in-the-first-half kind of game. We just handled it and came out on top."
It was like he wanted, just in case this really was goodbye.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun