No, Loyola did not win the NCAA title at Reitz Arena last night.
It only seemed that way as the crowd of 1,230 poured out of the stands and mobbed the players in a wild celebration of a dramatic 21-point comeback in the last 11 minutes that gave the Greyhounds a 58-57 victory over Canisius, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference leader.
After playing with little emotion in falling behind the Golden Griffins 53-32, the Greyhounds (9-13, 6-4) rallied behind the inspired play of freshman Jason Rowe and 6-foot-10 sophomore center Roderick Platt, who scored a career-high 15 points to go with his eight rebounds.
Platt made only one of two free throws to leave Canisius (14-9, 9-2) clinging to a 57-56 lead with 43 seconds left. The Griffins, who had won five straight and 12 of their last 14, then missed a three-point attempt.
Junior guard Mike Powell, Loyola's offensive leader, hustled for the rebound, but it slipped out of his hands and rolled out of bounds.
Powell, playing with a sprained right wrist, soon redeemed himself. With the clock ticking down to 19 seconds, Loyola fouled Canisius guard Kevin Thompson, who was leading the team with a 77 percent conversion rate from the free-throw line.
This time, Thompson clanked it off the rim. With six seconds left, Powell found a small seam in the Canisius zone and popped home a short jumper in the lane to give Loyola its first lead of the game -- but also the game-winner.
With no timeouts left, Canisius raced downcourt, but Thompson's hurried pass sailed out of bounds to trigger the mad scene at midcourt.
"I wasn't the least bit surprised that Powell made the winning shot," said Brian Ellerbe, who called it the best comeback he has seen in three seasons as Loyola's coach. "He's been making those game-winning shots since I've been here."
Ellerbe also singled out Platt and Rowe (12 points, three assists) for igniting the improbable comeback.
"Jason has been playing great for us since midseason." Ellerbe said. "He's been the main reason for our turnaround."
It was Platt's raw emotion and hustle that triggered the Greyhounds' offense after they had looked so listless for the first 29 minutes.
"Coach Ellerbe told us not to hang our heads when we trailed 34-21 at halftime," Platt said. "I challenged myself to go after every rebound and get everyone involved. And suddenly we got a burst of energy."
(Box score, 6D)
Pub Date: 2/14/97