The Western Mustangs gave themselves opportunities to win on Wednesday night at Alumni Hall in their matchup with the Laurier Golden Hawks.
Ian Smart had a layup under the basket that couldn't find its way in to break the 70–70 deadlock at the end of the fourth quarter.
At the end of the second overtime Eriq Jenkins had a wide open breakaway layup as time expired with the chance to break another tie and improve the Mustangs to 2–3 on the season.
He missed. And the Mustangs fell in double overtime 90–84 in another heartbreaking loss for a team that has been so close time and time again.
"Exciting to play in a game like that, for the crowd and the players," said Jenkins after the game. "High intensity and high competition. Not finishing out the game when we had a chance to — I don’t know, it just doesn’t feel right."
Up until that moment Jenkins had put the Mustangs on his back. The 26 point, 12 rebound performance was another standout display from the man who has emerged as the Mustangs most consistent player through its first five games.
But the Mustangs again put themselves in the position to win and again fell short. They've played much better than their 1–4 record indicates. But that doesn't change the difficult position that record puts them in.
"You can't produce better shots and we didn't convert," said head coach Brad Campbell on the pivotal misses from Smart and Jenkins. "If you gave me those shots I would take them any time and we didn't make them and we left the door open."
Campbell was clearly frustrated on the bench, both due to the lack of execution from his team down the stretch and from questionable refereeing decisions at critical moments late in the game.
One call in particular, a flagrant foul call on Nik Farkic that gave Laurier the chance to tie the game up at the end of regulation, was especially perplexing.
"As the head coach of this program I work tirelessly off the court with our guys, as any coach does, doing any number of things to try and win games on the court," said Campbell. "When some mysterious calls occur that are gonna decide the outcome of a game that you find mind boggling, I was upset about it and I think I found my cool later on and was able to put some things together."
He then proceeded to describe the call on Farkic as a "head-scratcher."
The Mustangs saw solid contributions offensively from Jenkins as well as Alex Coote, who had 14 points on 60 per cent shooting and nine rebounds, as well as Cam Morris and Ian Smart who finished with 12 and 10 points respectively.
Jenkins had an explosive game despite his costly miss. He was attacking the lane and hitting jump shots and playing aggressively, willing his team on as fatigue set in. Campbell was proud of his work effort.
"He was great today and he's a tremendous athlete," said Campbell. "He played his butt off and helped us get back in the game with several great takes to the basket. He was a warrior today and unfortunately that one late didn't go for him but we got a game Saturday we gotta get ready for."
That game on Saturday, a meeting with the Waterloo Warriors on the road, is the next test on the Mustangs schedule. But it will be hard to move on from another loss that could have gone the other way.
"We just didn't close the game out in that fourth quarter stretch," said Jenkins. "We had big leads going into halftime and didn't pull it out. We could be 4–1 but we're just young."
This team is young. And inexperience is costing them games. But they're also being hardened by these hard-fought defeats. With three games remaining before Christmas break they will look to learn from their failures in execution and turn their season around.