After a record-tying seven OTs, Skidmore wins

Joe Burke's wife was expecting a call from him Tuesday night, letting her know how his Skidmore College basketball team made out in an NCAA Division III game at Southern Vermont.

"At 11:30, she hadn't heard from me," the Skidmore coach said Wednesday. "She's worried, wondering what happened."

Just the longest game in Division III history, equaling the longest game in NCAA history. In his third game as basketball coach for the small, liberal-arts college in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Burke saw his team prevail over Southern Vermont in seven overtimes.

Final score: 128-123. Skidmore scored 59 points in regulation, 69 in overtime. Those 69 points are another NCAA record. Southern Vermont's Lance Spratling set an individual record, playing all 75 minutes.

As Skidmore celebrated in the locker room, "Guys went down with full body cramps," said Burke, a Bishop Eustace and Ursinus graduate.

For his team, Burke said the most remarkable thing was that four different times Skidmore scored in the last possession of an overtime period to extend the game, and each score was by a different player.

In the sixth overtime, a freshman, Eli Johnston, hit a three-pointer with 10 seconds left. Those were his only points of the game, and he had played just a minute in regulation. Although junior Melvis Langvintuo didn't start, he ended up with 18 points and 21 rebounds and made a free throw with one second left in the first overtime to keep things going.

Another Skidmore sub, John Mantas, came off the bench to play 59 minutes, leading his team with 27 points. Gerard O'Shea led Skidmore with 66 minutes, scoring 20 points.

The teams combined for 230 shots and an additional 103 free throws. Each shot better from the field and the three-point line in overtime than they had in regulation. By the end, four players had fouled out for each team.

It's possible that a game has never been played for so long in front of so few. Total attendance: 142.

In addition to talking Wednesday to ESPN and Yahoo Sports and other media outlets, Burke got calls from his former bosses, Billy Lange at Navy and Steve Donahue at Boston College. Burke had worked for Donahue at Cornell before assisting Lange at Navy. He is a member in good standing of the Philly basketball coaching fraternity. His first college coaching job was assisting Herb Magee at Philadelphia University.

The two other seven-overtime games in NCAA history came 29 and 54 years ago. The Division I record of seven was set in 1981 by Cincinnati and Bradley, while the Division II record was set in 1956 by Yankton and Black Hills.

As the overtimes piled up in Bennington, Vt., Burke said he had an idea how his players were feeling since his most memorable experience before Tuesday was his junior year in high school, playing point guard for Bill Lange Sr. when Eustace beat St. Augustine in four overtimes for the South Jersey Parochial B championship.

Did he run out of inspirational things to tell his team?

"I totally did," Burke said. "I was saying to them, 'Enjoy it, enjoy it. Take it in.' They started looking at me like I had three eyes."

Burke said he has talked a lot to his new players about building "a culture of toughness and togetherness."

They showed all that Tuesday night, he said.

The coach won't try to give his team a speech about forgetting this game and moving on to the next one, he said.

"They'll be telling their kids and their grandkids about it," Burke said.

 


Contact staff writer Mike Jensen at 215-854-4489 or mjensen@phillynews.com.