The good things didn’t last, though — just as Hewitt suspected they wouldn’t. His team has not been very good with the lead all season: It led Drexel by 20 at home on Jan. 31 and lost, and other second-half leads have gone aglimmering since conference play began. Frantz Massenat, who finished with 20 points for Drexel, began taking the ball to the basket play after play and the Patriots, who had been able to play without fouling for most of 30 minutes, suddenly couldn’t keep the Dragons in front of them without sending them to the line.
“I don’t know if we got a little tired or it was just that they scrapped their offense and began driving the ball on every play,” Hewitt said. “They were smart. We were stopping their sets so they just abandoned them.”
The lead withered and Hewitt had to feel like he was watching the same bad movie he’d seen over and over again all winter. Drexel cut the margin to 56-54 on Damion Lee’s three-pointer with 1:22 to go, and when Wright missed at the other end, the Dragons had the ball with 39 seconds left with a chance to tie or take the lead.
And then Allen made the play Hewitt has been waiting for someone to make since January. Massenet had the ball and was going to drive it left and into the lane for the 100th time in the final 10 minutes (or so it seemed). McCoy came out to screen and Allen went over the screen and cut Massenet off. Forced to go back to his right, Massenet forced a bad shot and Wright chased down the rebound with 15 seconds to go.
He was fouled and made both free throws. A few seconds later, Hewitt was thinking about Northeastern and Flint was thinking about next season.
“I did a bad job the last time we played them,” Hewitt said. “They had one set they killed us with and it was my fault because I didn’t have them ready to defend it. I told the guys that night, ‘Sometimes it’s on you; tonight was on me.’ We may lose tomorrow but it won’t be because of that set — that much I’ll promise.”
All that Mason is promised right now is a third crack at Northeastern. Hewitt and his players were more than happy to take that after the rock fight was finally over.
In the end, Drexel couldn’t make one more play. Mason did make one more play. Which is why the Patriots get to play at least one more game. In March, that’s all you can ask for.
For more by John Feinstein, go to www.washingtonpost.com/feinstein.