The South Dakota School of Mines men's basketball team trailed for only 11 seconds of its rivalry matchup with Black Hills State University.
For the Jackets, that short time in the lead was nearly good enough. Mines, however, pulled out a 79-78 win over the Saturday night at Goodell Gymnasium.
Black Hills State tied the game four times in the second half and took its only lead with 43 seconds remaining on a 3-pointer by Adam Moussa, only to see the Hardrockers regain the advantage on a drive by Keagan Smith on the next possession.
BHSU's Joel Scott hit 1-of-2 free throws to tie the game with 25 seconds remaining but Mines sophomore Alejandro Rama hit one free throw to break the tie for proved to be the wining point.
Black Hills State took the ball down and called time out on their side of the court with 1.3 seconds remaining. After a timeout, the Jackets were not able to get a shot off in time and the 'Rockers celebrated the win.
The win moved the young Mines team to 6-4 in Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference play and 6-4 overall. BHSU fell to 3-3 and 3-3.
"We both know each other really well," Mines head coach Eric Glenn said. "We really like our guys. They are young and inexperienced, but they are really picking up a lot of things. They've had some great experiences with some close games. Pretty much every game, other than that first weekend, has been a dogfight."
Hardrocker freshman Keagan Smith played in his first Mines-BHSU game and as would be expected, he liked it.
"It was great. The crowd was limited, but it was loud," he said. "It is something that we had hoped for and it was something that as players, we enjoy."
It was the second nail-biter this week as the Hardrockers edged Chadron State College 60-59 in overtime Thursday on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from junior Kolten Mortensen.
"We've just been really impressed with our guys' mental toughness. We had some moments where we struggled, but we were able to collect ourselves and we were able to get back," Glenn said. "With young teams when it goes off the rails, it doesn't come back, it usually stayed off the rails."
Snjolfur Steffansen gave the Jackets a 9-8 lead at the 15:27 mark of the first half, only to see Mines senior Wilfred Dickson hit a 3-pointer to put the 'Rockers back in front. Mines built a 12-point lead on five points from Dickson and a free throw from freshman Josiah Gardiner.
BHSU came roaring back and cut the lead to one with nine points from sophomore Joel Scott and a 3-pointer from senior Trey Whitley. The Hardrockers escaped to the locker room with a 37-35 halftime lead.
A 3-pointer to open the second half by Mortensen got Mines going and a 3-pointer from senior Trey Smith put the Hardrockers up by 10 with 14:31 to play.
Black Hills State battled back to tighten things up at 55-53 and later at 63-60 on a free throw by Whitley. The Jackets came back to tie the game at 66-66 on a free throw by Tommy Donovan and again at 68-all on a basket by Steffansson.
Mortensen hit another bit 3-pointer, followed by a trey from Keagan Smith to seemingly give the Hardrockers control. But 3-pointers by Whitley and Scott tied the game again briefly at 74-74, only to see Dickson fouled on the in-bounds play, and he broke the tie with two free throws.
Moussa's 3-pointer gave the Jackets the lead again, setting up the final half minute of the game.
It was a typical Mines-BHSU game, Jacket head coach Ryan Thompson said.
"Three years in a row when we have played here it has come down to the last possession," Thompson said. "We were on the other end the last two years. Credit to them, they made more plays than us and they deserved to win, I thought they out-physicaled us and they really hurt us on the glass, and that was the difference."
Thompson thought his team's full-court pressure bothered the Hardrockers and it gave his team some energy when it got out on the open court offensively.
"We wanted the game to be more up-tempo; I thought that favored us and we finally got it that way halfway through the second half," he said.
Dickson led Mines with 26 points and five rebounds as the fifth-year senior leads the young Jackets in scoring at 13.4 per game. He was 7-of-11 from the field and he muscled his way down low and hit 11-of-13 free throws.
"Our strength staff does a great job with our guys and he has been in our program for five years," Glenn said of Dickson.
The 6-foot-1 Rama finished with 16 points, 11 rebounds and four assists, followed by Keagan Smith with 12 points and Mortensen with 10 points. The 'Rockers shot 50% from the field at 26-of-52, hit 7-of-20 3-pointers, but were just 20-of-33 from the free-throw line.
"We're a tough team. We're pretty new, but we have bonded together. We don't have any quit," said Keagan Smith, who scored in double figures for the first time in his college career.
It's been a good start for the freshman from Delano, Minnesota.
"Coming in I'm new to college and new to this school, so I am just doing what I can, doing what I do best. Tonight everything clicked," Smith said.
Scott, last year's Freshman of the Year and all-conference performer, had 26 points and 10 rebounds to pace the Jackets, who also shot well hitting 28-of-57 from the field and 9-of-24 3-pointers. Whitley had 18 points and Moussa added 13 points.
Friday's game against Western Colorado was just the Jackets fifth game of the season and first since Jan. 4.
"We're just thankful for any opportunity that we get to play," Thompson said. "It's been a crazy year. We're just trying to have the right perspective and make the most out of any opportunity that we have when we step out on the court."
To get things going, Thompson said they have to get tougher defensively, especially at the post and rebound.
"I think offensively everything will take care of ourselves; I like our team a lot," he said. "We just have to learn to be a little tougher inside with everyone that we got."
The Jackets are at Chadron State Tuesday and host Metro State-Denver Friday and Colorado Christian Saturday.
Glenn said they want to go out and be competitive and play well. Looking at their roster, he said there is a lot of future.
"We're just stressing to focus on us and play our way and see what happens," he said. "If we win, that is great, but we need to go back next week and try to continue to get better."
Mines is at Colorado Colorado Springs Friday. The originally scheduled game at New Mexico Highlands has been canceled.