What began as just another basketball game turned into a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference classic.
Canisius and Manhattan were locked in a seemingly endless struggle Monday night. When it was finally over, the weary Golden Griffins had survived with a 105-98 four-overtime victory at the Koessler Center.
"I was at home the other night watching Rocky I and seeing Rocky and Apollo Creed hold each other up for 15 rounds. That was what this game was like," said Griffs coach Mike MacDonald. "It was wild. I've never seen anything like that before as a coach in 12 years in Division I or the high school level. I thought we had the game won about seven times and I thought we lost it about six or seven times."
It was an especially gutsy effort by the Griffs, who were coming off an overtime loss to Siena on Saturday.
"That game was tough. This one was fun, but physically draining," said Canisius center Darren Fenn. "As much as I'm glad that we won, I think the thing I'll take away from this game is how good it felt to finally get it over with."
Only 371 fans attended, but several hundred more probably will claim they were here years from now. It was the second-longest game ever in the MAAC. Fairfield and Iona played to five overtimes in 1981-82, the league's first year. It was Canisius' first four-overtime game since the 1956 NCAA tournament, when it beat North Carolina State, 79-78.
The list of superlatives was as long as the game:
Fenn set Koessler Center records with 22 rebounds and 18 free throws made (on 19 attempts). His rebounds were the most by a Griff since Larry Fogle grabbed 22 against St. Peter's in 1974. Fenn also scored 28 points, including 26 after halftime, and dished out a career-high seven assists in 48 minutes.
Manhattan freshman Bruce Seals was just as sensational. He played all 60 minutes and scored 41 points, breaking the Koessler record for points by an opponent. It also was the second-most points scored against the Griffs. Seals set an NCAA record with 27 three-point attempts, breaking the mark set by Jackson State's Lindsey Hunter against Kansas in 1992. Seals' 39 total field-goal attempts set a MAAC record, and he tied the league mark with nine three-pointers made.
Thanks to Seals, Manhattan set Koessler records for most three-pointers made (14) and attempted (43), and set a MAAC record with 62 rebounds. Canisius tied the previous record with 60 rebounds.
Canisius topped the 100-point mark for the first time against a Division I opponent at Koessler. The last time it reached the century mark here was in 1988-89 against Elmira.
Six players played at least 48 minutes. Manhattan guard Phil Lane played 59 minutes, while Canisius guard Clive Bentick led the Griffs with 52.
"It was incredible," said Manhattan coach Bobby Gonzalez. "It was one of the best games I've ever seen, been around, witnessed, coached or played in. It seemed like it was never going to end."
Fenn had a chance to put Canisius (5-15, 4-7 in the MAAC) up by three late in regulation, but his only missed free-throw attempt, with 19.9 seconds remaining, left the door open. Manhattan (10-9, 7-4) quickly got the ball down the court and Seals converted a leaning one-hander off the glass in traffic to force the first OT at 67-all.
"That guy was in a zone," Griffs guard Dorian McClure said of Seals. "There were plenty of times where I actually touched his hand after the shot and the ball was still going in."
The game went into a second overtime when Bentick missed a driving layup with 1.8 seconds left and the score tied at 72-all. Seals had a chance to put Manhattan up by three late in the third extra session, but he missed the second of two free throws. Fenn's tip-in with 6.2 seconds remaining tied it, 79-79.
When Manhattan forward Durelle Brown (22 points, 16 rebounds) made two free throws to force a fourth OT, McClure took matters into his own hands. The senior guard, who did not play in the third OT because of mistakes in the previous session, scored eight of his career-high 22 points to put the Griffs in front for good.
"At that time, we just wanted to do whatever it took to get the game over with," McClure said. "I'm beat. I'm glad we have (today) off. I think I might spend all day in the bath tub."
Dale Sawyers added 15 points and Hodari Mallory had 10 for the Griffs, who visit Iona on Friday.