ERIE, Pa. – The Maine Red Claws left the Erie Insurance Arena floor shocked and frustrated Saturday night.
Less than an hour later, they got some good news: They’re going to the D-League playoffs.
After a devastating 108-105 loss to the Erie BayHawks, a team Maine eliminated from the playoffs Friday night, the Red Claws were given a second chance when last-place Iowa upset Sioux Falls, 109-104.
“It means everything,” Maine Coach Mike Taylor said. “It’s been our goal, my dream and my hope to bring the playoffs to Maine for the fans, the owners and the teams. I told our guys to play their hearts out and they did everything they could. The ball bounced Erie’s way.”
Maine, the eighth seed, will learn its first-round opponent Sunday. The three division winners will choose their opponents from the four bottom seeds, which includes the Red Claws.
The division winners will name their opponents during a league teleconference.
Cory Higgins scored a career-high 41 points — the second-highest single-game total in BayHawks history.
But it was a 6-foot-10 center from Louisville, Terrence Jennings, who made the biggest basket. Jennings, in his first game with the BayHawks, sank a deep 3-pointer with 11.9 seconds left for a 106-105 lead.
Maine then missed two shots and had to foul Erik Daniels with 2.2 seconds left. He connected on both free throws to give Erie a 108-105 lead.
Taylor then called a timeout to set up one final shot.
“We had a great look for Josh Selby to tie it,” Taylor said. “He just missed but I’m really proud of these guys. They played their hearts out in both games this weekend.”
Selby and Chris Wright each finished with 25 points for the Red Claws (26-24). Curtis Jerrells added 20 points, Mark Tyndale had 12 and Jermaine Taylor 10. Wright also pulled down 10 rebounds and Omar Reed secured nine.
Maine led by as many as 16 in the third quarter before Erie stormed back.
“I don’t know if we ran out of gas or what the situation was,” Mike Taylor said. “It came down to us not playing with the same halfcourt defense in the fourth quarter that we did for the first seven quarters this weekend. We had plenty of opportunities in the game and it came down to a fluke 3-pointer from Terrence Jennings.”
Erie broke a 96-96 tie on an acrobatic one-handed shot by Higgins. He was fouled and connected on the free throw to give the BayHawks their biggest lead.
Maine responded with an 8-1 run behind six points from Selby for a 104-100 lead with 2:19 left.
Nick Covington drilled a 3-pointer to cut it to 104-103 before Omar Reed hit 1 of 2 from the line with 1:17 left.
Jennings finished with 11 points, Daniels had 15 and Covington 14 for Erie. The BayHawks shot only 48.2 percent from the floor but after a hot start, Maine was cold in the second half. The Red Claws were 22 of 45 (48.9 percent) in the first half before connecting on only 16 of 37 over the final two quarters.
Maine finished with three games over the final two weeks, all against Erie. The Red Claws went 2-1 in those three games and are looking to carry that momentum into the postseason.
“It helps us prepare for the playoffs,” Mike Taylor said. “We knew Erie well and knew their personnel. Hopefully we can rebound for the postseason.”