NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – After cutting a second-half deficit from 13 points to just three with seconds to play, the Merrimack men's basketball team nearly completed an incredible rally to tie the game, but rookie guard Gelvis Solano (New York, N.Y.) just missed on a potential buzzer-beating, game-tying 3-pointer, as the Warriors fell, 79-76, to Concordia in their home opener on Saturday afternoon at Hammel Court.
Losers of back-to-back games, the Warriors see their overall record stand at an even 2-2 after the defeat, while the previously winless Clippers improve to 1-3 by means of the victory.
Down by eight with 20 seconds to play, Solano trimmed the deficit to five by means of his career-high fifth 3-pointer of the match, a basket that came roughly 30 seconds after another made 3-ball from the freshman.
After the Warriors' tenacious defense forced another Concordia turnover with seven seconds left, senior forward Mike Clifford (Danvers, Mass.) slammed home his second dunk of the contest to make it 79-76 with just more than three seconds remaining.
Following a timeout, Concordia again gave the ball back to Merrimack by means of a turnover on the in-bounds pass, as Clifford came up with the errant pass and slung it out to the left wing where Solano heaved up a desperate three, but the try rimmed out as the final horn sounded to give the Clippers the narrow win.
Solano finished the game with a career-high 22 points while going 5-for-9 from downtown and 7-for-16 overall. The rookie also dished four assists and came up with a team-high two steals.
Clifford, meanwhile, notched his third double-double of the young season by means of a 22-point, 10-rebound output, and finally, senior Tyler Young (Brooklyn, N.Y.) rounded out the trio of Merrimack double-digit scorers with an 11-point performance on 5-of-14 shooting.
The visitors, however, were paced by a quartet of double-digit scorers, led by Lavor Morris' side-high 18-point output off the bench, while starters Argelix Gil (15), Norman Pope (14) and Tshyrad Oates (11) all surpassed the 10-point mark on the night.
Both sides shot over 30 percent from the outside, as Solano contributed for all five of Merrimack's 3-pointers, while the Clippers posted a 6-for-16 (.375) clip from beyond the arc. In total, the Warriors finished with more field goals (30-for-68, 44.1 percent), but the visitors posted a slightly better shooting average (25-for-52, 48.1 percent).
Where the visitors truly excelled, however, was at the stripe, as Concordia finished 23-for-26 (.885) from the free throw line, while Merrimack went just 11-for-19 (.579) on the night. Merrimack also owned a 37-31 edge in rebounding while both squads combined for 37 turnovers.
Both sides started slowly in the first half before Concordia eventually took an eight-point lead (22-14) with 8:41 remaining in the stanza. Merrimack would trim that down to a two-point deficit after reeling off six uncontested points before eventually tying the game at 33-33 with 57 seconds remaining in the stanza.
The Clippers, however, would head to the break ahead by four (37-33) after making a pair of free throws down the stretch and benefitting from a defensive goaltending call in the waning seconds of the half.
Down by eight a minute into the second frame, the Warriors cut the deficit down to one (48-47) on back-to-back free throws made by Clifford with 13:56 to play in regulation. But the visitors would then embark on a 12-1 run over a span of five minutes to take a commanding 12-point lead with 8:53 to go.
Both sides would exchange baskets until a layup by Oates with 6:40 left ran up the lead to a game-high 13 points for the Clippers. Playing from behind, the Warriors battled valiantly over the remainder of the match to cut it to a one-possession game, but Concordia managed to respond time and time again to maintain at least a four-point cushion until the dramatic final three seconds.
Next up, the Warriors return to Northeast-10 Conference play on Tuesday (Nov. 20) when they make the short trip down to Bentley University to battle the Falcons. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.