Clutch free throw from Sams lifts Ospreys past Flames

Zach Yearwood, Sports Reporter

Featured image by: Darvin Nelson

The North Florida Ospreys’ men’s basketball team dethroned Liberty from the top of the ASUN standings Thursday in a nail-biter, winning 71-70.

Darvin Nelson
Wajid Aminu scored 11 points in the win over Liberty.

JT Escobar got UNF out to a hot start by scoring a three almost immediately after tip-off. This was coupled with another three from Ivan-Gandia Rosa to give the Ospreys an early 6-2 lead.

At the first TV timeout, Liberty led 10-9. That lead wouldn’t last long as UNF went on an 8-2 run coming out of the break.

Both teams battled hard in the first half and six lead changes in the first half show it. The Ospreys held the largest lead of the half at five points.

Late in the period, the Ospreys were up only two points when Liberty’s Darius McGhee hit a tough three to go up 29-28. Gandia-Rosa erased the deficit when he got to the free throw line and sank both shots with under a minute left in the half. 

UNF went into halftime leading, 32-31. Ivan Gandia-Rosa led all scoring with 14 points.

The first seven minutes of the second half were back and forth. Both teams battled for every point and neither could get separation.

An 11-2 run down the stretch lifted the Ospreys to a 70-60 lead with three minutes left on the clock. The run was spurred by two three-pointers from Garrett Sams and another one from Carter Hendricksen.

The Flames, however, would not go down without a fight. For the rest of the game, Liberty forced several missed shots and turnovers and stopped the Ospreys from scoring another basket. A 10-0 run fueled by four from Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz tied the game up with 18 seconds remaining and gave the Ospreys the ball for one last possession.

The UNF Arena waited with bated breath as Ivan Gandia-Rosa’s final shot – presumably the last shot of the game – was in the air. As it clanked off the rim, a mad dash for the ball by all ten players on the court ensued.

Garrett Sams managed to come away from the madness with the ball and was almost immediately fouled. He had a chance to seal the game with two free throws. Almost all hands in the arena went up to celebrate a made free throw, but the first shot found the back of the rim and bounced to the floor.

The second shot went up, the entire arena was silent. Nothing but net. Sams gave the Ospreys a one-point lead with just 1.5 seconds left on the clock. 

“I felt the first [free throw] go a little bit long… so after that, I got a better feel for it and got my whereabouts so I just knew the second one was going in,” Sams said about the clutch final point.

It would take a miracle shot for Liberty to win the game. Luckily for the Ospreys, Darius McGhee missed the game winner.

Gandia-Rosa led the team with 19 points and Sams chipped in with 16.

The Ospreys now sit atop the ASUN with a 5-1 record in conference play (12-9 overall). They will travel to Nashville to take on Lipscomb on Saturday, Jan. 25 at 5:00 p.m.


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