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Firebirds Overcome 21-Point Deficit; Earn 95-92 Overtime Victory at Roberts Wesleyan

Sidbury scored 21 points on seven three-pointers.
Sidbury scored 21 points on seven three-pointers.

ROCHESTER, NY – The visiting University of the District of Columbia Firebirds overcame a 21-point deficit and ultimately defeated East Coast Conference foe Roberts Wesleyan College in overtime, 95-92 at the Voller Athletic Center Wednesday night.

The Firebirds snapped a three-game losing streak and improved to 11-9 overall and 8-4 in league play with tonight's win. They also completed the season-sweep of Roberts Wesleyan and moved to 3-0 this season in overtime games. The Redhawks, meanwhile, fell to 2-18 overall and 1-10 in the conference as they lost their seventh straight game.

UDC trailed 41-20 with 2:28 remaining in the opening half, but the Firebirds closed out the half on an 8-0 run to cut the deficit to 13 and take some momentum into the locker room. Senior guard Reggie Sidbury scored 15 of his 21 points in that first half, making 5-of-6 from long range to help keep the Firebirds in striking distance.

The Firebirds would then out-score RWC 48-35 in the 2nd half, slowly but surely eating away at the Redhawks' 13-point halftime lead. A layup by Roberts' Darren Dixon put the Redhawks up 61-50 with just under eight minutes remaining, but Sidbury and junior guard Traevon Butler each connected on three-pointers during a 13-5 Firebird burst, and a conventional three-point play by junior guard Khalil Jackson made it a one-possession game, 66-63 with 4:37 remaining.

UDC eventually forced the first tie of the closing half (3rd of the game) on a layup by Jackson at the 2:30 mark to make it 70-all. The Firebirds would actually fall behind 76-72 after a three-pointer by RWC's Quinn Carey with exactly one minute to play, but back-to-back layups by UDC forced the 5th and final tie of the game, 76-76. Quinn, who had made 2-of-3 from long range in the 2nd half up until that point, put up a three-pointer at the buzzer but was way off, and the game headed to overtime.

Fifteen seconds into the extra session, Jackson gave the Firebirds their first lead of the game since the 11:46 mark of the first half with a layup. That layup kicked off an 8-0 Firebirds run to open the overtime period and gave UDC its largest lead of the night, 84-76 with 3:47 to play. Still ahead by eight, 90-82, with under a minute remaining, UDC had to withstand three consecutive three-pointers by Carey – the last one bringing the Redhawks within three, 94-91 with 10 seconds left on the clock.

On the ensuing UDC possession, Roberts immediately fouled Jackson, sending him to the line for a one-and-one. Jackson sank the front end of that one-and-one to make it a two-possession game, but missed the second free-throw. The Redhawks quickly made their way down the floor and put the ball in the hands of Carey. His three-point shot was off the mark, but Zack Panebianco grabbed the offensive rebound and was fouled with 1.5 seconds remaining. Panebianco made the first to make it a three-point game, then intentionally fired the ball at the rim in the hopes of coming up with the offensive rebound and putting up a game-tying three-point attempt. A UDC player corralled the rebound, however, and time expired.

In what was truly a tale of two halves, UDC allowed Roberts nine offensive rebounds and only got to the foul line for five free-throw attempts in the first half. The second half, however, UDC limited the Redhawks to three offensive rebounds, and the Firebirds took 13 free-throw attempts – of which, they made 11. Another key to UDC's comeback was holding RWC to 1-of-7 from long range in the second half.

Senior guard Kasim Chandler scored a career-high 41 points to go with three assists and three steals, Jackson finished with a double-double of 15 points and a game-high 12 rebounds, and Butler pitched in 12 points and six rebounds. UDC also got valuable contributions from its bench as guard Anthony Matthews registered two points, a season-high eight assists and five rebounds in 31 minutes played, and guard Jahkeem Folks added two points, five rebounds and one assist.

The Redhawks featured five players in double-figures scoring, including a team-best 23 points by Carey on 8-of-16 from the field and 7-of-13 from three-point range. Panebianco also finished with 22 (but only scored three points after the first half), Manny Joseph nearly had a triple double with 21 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, and Malik Dare and Davon Jackson each contributed 10 points apiece.

Next up, UDC will visit league-leading St. Thomas Aquinas College on Saturday, February 4th. The Firebirds upset the Spartans back on December 17th in the nation's capital when STAC was ranked No. 3 in Division II. The Spartans have currently won eight straight games and are receiving votes in the latest NABC Top-25 national poll.