- The Washington Times - Monday, March 9, 2009

His free throw had just bounced off the front rim, but Brian Gilmore wasn’t thinking how another miss would send American University to overtime against Army in the Patriot League semifinals or could jeopardize the Eagles’ bid to return to the NCAA tournament.

Gilmore was envisioning just the opposite.

“That’s the fun thing about March,” he said. “You look around, and every day somebody is getting beat by one or losing on a last second shot. I was thinking, ‘This would be fun to make this free throw and keep our season going.’ ”

Gilmore drained the second free throw, which came with 3.6 seconds remaining, and when Army’s halfcourt shot was wide as time expired, AU escaped with a 61-60 win Sunday afternoon at raucous Bender Arena.

The Eagles (23-7) advance to the title game for the second consecutive season and will host Holy Cross on Friday at 4:45 p.m.



Whereas AU controlled the regular-season meetings with Army (wins by 24 and 22 points), the Eagles were in deep trouble several times in the rubber match.

Army (11-19) led by seven points at halftime, 11 early in the second half and five with 2:50 remaining.

“I think I’ve used this line some time in the last few weeks: I’m not sure how we did it,” AU coach Jeff Jones said. “That certainly applies.”

Gilmore led the Eagles with 19 points. Garrison Carr added 17 and Bryce Simon nine off the bench.

The winning free throw was far from Gilmore’s only big shot. Despite being limited to 25 minutes because of foul trouble, he made seven of his 12 shots, including four of six from 3-point territory. His last 3-pointer tied the game at 60-60 with 0:43 remaining.

Out of a timeout, Army ran down the shot clock before Josh Miller’s shot was off target. Derrick Mercer collected the rebound and raced down court as Jones opted not to call a timeout. Mercer’s bounce pass to Carr in the left corner hit traffic. A scrum followed, and Gilmore came up with the loose ball and was fouled by Kenny Brewer.

“It was by sheer effort on our guys’ part that we came up with the ball,” Jones said. “In that situation, an official doesn’t want to make that call, but because we got off the ball so hard they had to make the call.”

In last year’s league title game against Colgate, Gilmore hit two key free throws with 31.2 seconds remaining.

“I like to have the ball in my hands at the end of the game, not necessarily to be taking the game-winning shot but maybe make a pass to get somebody else a good shot,” he said.

Gilmore, who averages 12.2 points a game, admits teams may overlook him and concentrate on the guard duo of Carr and Mercer.

“Teams are going to look at those guys and say, ‘If we stop those guys, we’re going to win,’ ” Gilmore said. “Usually they’re right.”

Army lost track of Gilmore early in the second half when he scored 12 straight points to key a 19-4 run to turn an 11-point deficit into a four-point lead.

“You could see the game slipping away at times because Army was playing so well,” Gilmore said. “I just knew when I got in there, I would have to give us some kind of spark. Coach iterated at halftime to attack them. … He told me in particular to respond with my play and not do so much talking because I was a little bothered by the referees.”

Said Simon: “Brian’s a great shooter, and throughout his career he’s had some trouble with his confidence being up and down. But we were saying in the locker room that he’s more confident now than he’s ever been.”

HOLY CROSS 61, COLGATE 44: Junior forward Eric Meister scored 19 points on 9-for-10 shooting as the Crusaders cruised into the Patriot League final with a victory over the Red Raiders.

Holy Cross (18-13) shot 49.1 percent from the field and held Colgate (10-20) to 31.9 percent.

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