PORTLAND – Of all the tough losses the Maine Red Claws have endured this season, Thursday night’s has to be the most stunning of all.

Maine had possession and a two-point lead over the Dakota Wizards with just four seconds to play.

A win seemed all but official. Then, in a stunning turn of events, Dakota’s Anthony Goods stole a bad inbounds pass from Magnum Rolle to Mario West, backed up behind the 3-point arc and let a shot fly.

It was good, giving the Wizards a 104-103 victory in a game the Red Claws once led by 17.

A capacity crowd of 3,045 at the Portland Expo stood stunned before filing out into the cold.

“It’s just too bad. We deserved to win that,” said Maine Coach Austin Ainge. “We made big shots down the stretch but a silly mistake cost us.”

The Red Claws fell to 14-24 while the Wizards improved to 13-25.

Dakota, which trailed by more than 10 points for most of the game, battled back to tie it at 97 with 1:52 to play.

Still, Maine was in control.

The Red Claws got a jumper from DeShawn Sims, a defensive rebound by West on the Wizards’ next shot and an 18-footer from Rolle to go up 101-97.

Dakota’s Mike Anderson made it a two-point game with a jumper before Sims dunked a backdoor pass from Jamar Smith with just 12.4 seconds to play for 103-99 lead.

Anderson scored inside with 8.1 seconds left to make it 103-101, but the Red Claws were still in control — that is, until Rolle’s pass was picked off by Goods to set up the winning shot.

Maine had a final chance, but Smith’s 3-point try sailed short of the basket.

“That game had a great pace; it was just a simple mistake,” said Sims, who had a career-high 35 points. “We had a good game for the most part, but just down the stretch …”

Maine took a 30-22 lead in the first quarter, but gave away 10 points at the free-throw line.

They extended the lead to 59-46 by halftime after leading by up to 17 in the second quarter.

The Wizards went on an 8-0 run late in the third and hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to cut the Claws’ lead to 81-75 going into the final quarter.

The game marked the return of Rolle, a 6-foot-11 center injured after just two games.

He provided a boost to the offense, scoring 20 points along with six rebounds.

“It felt good to play. I feel like I’m getting my rhythm back,” said Rolle.

“Tonight was just some mental mistakes, but there’s nothing like being in the game and jelling again.”

NOTE: Maine traded center Tiny Gallon to the Bakersfield Jam for a 2011 draft pick.

Staff Writer Jenn Menendez can be contacted at 791-6426 or at:

[email protected]


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