SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – No one saw this ending coming.
Leading nearly the entire contest, the Maine Red Claws gave up a 13-point fourth-quarter lead, losing 93-91 to the Springfield Armor on a dunk at the buzzer.
It was the fifth loss in six games to the Armor (11-10) this season, the lone win coming here last Saturday.
Maine (7-15) held a 13-point lead with nine minutes, 22 seconds remaining in the game following back-to-back baskets by Courtney Pigram (14 points). But the Armor went on a 15-1 run to take the lead at 4:26.
Jerome Randle’s 3-pointer gave the Claws the lead back, but Springfield pulled ahead and held a four-point lead with just under two minutes left.
Lawrence Hill (16 points, 10 rebounds) hit one of two foul shots, then with 30.1 seconds left Dominic Calegari (14 points) sank his fourth 3-pointer to tie the game at 91-91.
The game came down to the final possession, the Armor inbounding the ball with two seconds remaining. Armor guard Lance Hurdle fired a 3-pointer from the corner that teammate L.D. Williams caught and dunked at the buzzer to win the game.
“It was hard-fought and both teams were making some plays but more mistakes and I thought we kept attempting to clean up stuff on both ends, and we did it to get up 13,” Maine Coach Dave Leitao said. “Then we let down and when you let down in this league no lead is ever safe.
“When you allow a game to come down to the last possession because you leave plays out there then you really can’t get upset about something happening adversely at the end because you had an opportunity to clean it up far before then.”
The bench gave the Red Claws a big lift in the first half as they went into the locker room with a 52-44 edge on the Armor.
Morris Almond, in his first game back with the Red Claws since leaving after the 2009-10 season to play overseas, fit right in as he came off the bench in the first half.
Maine’s bench not only outscored Springfield’s bench in the first half, it also outscored the Red Claws starting five. Almond scored 8, Pigram 9 and Calegari 8 points. Maine’s bench had 27 points, two more than the starters.
One starter who had an exceptional first half was Hill. The Stanford product had 13 points and 7 rebounds to lead the Red Claws.
Hill not only hit a 3-pointer, but he was successful in transition, beating the Armor big men down the court and exploiting mismatches under the basket for easy scores.
The only negative for the Red Claws in the first half was trouble at the foul line. They made just 6 of 11 free throws, Hill missing two in one trip to the stripe and Pigram missing two of three after getting fouled on a 3-point attempt.
Maine continued to play well in the third quarter, the defense keeping the Armor from putting together any sort of a run and going into the fourth quarter with a 75-66 lead.
Ricky Davis finished with 14 and Almond 15. The Armor were led by Williams with 19.
NOTES: The Red Claws, who have played six of the last eight games on the road, will get a break from the difficult travel schedule of the D-League by finishing the month at home with four games at the Portland Expo, beginning tonight against Erie. … Sunday’s game against Erie will start at noon. The time was changed because of the Patriots game starting at 3 p.m.