Things looked bleak. The country was gripped by one of the worst winters in years and the losses were piling up faster than the snow outside for the Allegheny College men’s basketball team.

A season of optimism had turned into a post-Christmas 2-8 run for the Gators. With the future looking dark, the Gators shocked Hiram 77-72 on Feb. 11 and turned the disappointment of several near-miss upsets into reality. From that point on the Gators figured heavily in the North Coast Athletic Conference tournament picture. Counting the Gators’ win over the Terriers, Allegheny finished the year with wins in four of its final six games.

With just three players set to graduate, Allegheny will return 86 percent of its scoring from this season and 77 percent of its rebounding. While a promising future beckons, it’s worth looking back at a tumultous season that provided plenty of highs and lows.



Cold winter



The Gators suffered through a 2-8 stretch that ran from Jan. 3 to Feb. 7. During that time, the Gators lost four games by four points or less, but the other four were by an average of 14.5 points. The low point during that run was a 23-point loss to Kenyon, 74-51. The Gators shot 29.1 percent in the first half and trailed 43-24 at halftime. Kenyon sophomore J.T. Knight hit his first four 3-point attempts as the Lords raced out to a 43-24 halftime lead.



Conference craziness



After the Gators snapped out of their funk, they posted two of their biggest wins of the year in back-to-back games.

Allegheny climbed back from a 10-point halftime deficit and took the lead for good when Craig Devinney buried a 3-pointer with 2:01 left as the Gators defeated Ohio Wesleyan, 59-57, in the NCAC regular-season finale.

Three days later they doubled their pleasure.

George Raftis made a layup with 24 seconds left in overtime, giving the Gators the lead for good as Allegheny defeated Ohio Wesleyan, 78-75, on Feb. 24 in the NCAC tournament quarterfinal. Allegheny’s season ended in the next round with a 73-56 loss to Wabash.



Good news, bad news



Allegheny held Wooster to a season-low 52 points, but countered with its worst offensive-output of the season as it fell to the Fighting Scots, 52-39, in NCAC on Feb. 18 at the David V. Wise Center.

The Gators shot a season-worst 27 percent from the field. That was the Gators’ worst shooting percentage since they shot 25 percent in a 74-63 loss to Wabash in 2003.



Toughest loss of the year



The Gators squandered an eight-point lead and watched as Wabash’s Chase Haltom scored six points in the final 18 seconds to lift the Little Giants to a 58-56 win at the Wise Center on Jan. 3.

As if that wasn’t heart-breaking enough, the Gators still had a chance to win the game.

Haltom hit a 3-pointer with .3 seconds remaining to give Wabash a 57-54 lead. But Allegheny drew a foul without an inbounds pass and Henry Heeter made two free throws to pull the Gators within a point, but the Gators were caught with six men on the court and were assessed a technical, which all but ended their hopes.

Craig Devinney scored four points to put the Gators up 54-51 with 24 seconds left, which set the stage for Haltom’s heroics.



Good news, bad news II



Junior forward-center George Raftis kept the Gators in the game, but one untimely miss by the big junior knocked them out in a 67-64 loss to Denison on Jan. 31.

Raftis was 11-for-18 from the floor but missed a turnaround, baseline layup attempt with 39 ticks left in the game.

“I got the ball, and I know that they were sucking into everything, but I felt strong,” Raftis said at the time. “I had three guys on me, and I guess I wasn’t totally focused and took my eye off the rim. I didn’t get enough loft on the ball. It happens.”

Denison junior guard Chris Luther sprinted to the other end and nailed a layup to close the door on a back-and-forth finish.

Raftis had a 30-point, nine-rebound effort in the loss, which also included a perfect 8-for-8 day at the stripe.



Moral victory



Hiram, which ended the season as the third seed for the conference tournament survived an Allegheny upset bid, 65-61, at the Wise Center on Jan. 21.

“I don’t think either team played particularly well in spots,” said Hiram coach Steve Fleming. “But I thought Allegheny deserved the win, to be honest. They played harder than we did. They hit some big shots. Somehow we pulled it out in the end.”



Oh-for



The Gators shot 36.4 percent in the first half (8-for-22). They were 0-for-7 from 3-point range and 0-for-4 from the free throw line en route to a season-low 16-first half points in a 69-52 nonconference loss to Penn State Behrend on Jan. 7.



Divine Devinney



Craig Devinney came up big in the Gators’ 79-68 NCAC win over Earlham on Jan. 2.

Devinney hit a buzzer-beating trey to push the Gators in front 34-33 at halftime.

Earlham took a 44-36 lead early in the second half. It was at this point that Devinney hoisted the Gators on his shoulders. The 6-foot-3 swingman scored the next 10 points for Allegheny and 13 of the Gators’ next 15.

He got things rolling with a left-handed hook shot and a foul. He then added a pull-up jumper, a triple from downtown and a pair of free throws. Later he knocked down another trey.

He finished the half with 17 points and 22 for the game.

“Craig really picked it up,” said Gators coach Rob Clune. “He’s a kid that can rise to the occasion.”

Devinney also led the team with six steals.

“And he guarded their best kid (Tristian Gregory) all night,” said Clune. “I’m not sure what he had, but I’m pretty sure it was below his average.”

Gregory came into the contest averaging over 23 points a game. Devinney helped hold him to 4-for-13 shooting from the floor and 15 points.



On target



During Allegheny’s 81-59 win over Oberlin on Jan. 14, Allegheny was in a sharp-shooting mood. The Gators were 13-for-23 from behind the 3-point line. That was a season-high for threes in a game. Allegheny’s 56.5 percent shooting rate from the arc was by far a season-high.

“This game’s a lot easier when you make shots,” Gator coach Rob Clune said.



Briscoe’s touch



Freshman Donte Briscoe could be someone that makes an impact for the next few years. The freshman moved into a starting role in the Gators’ final four games. He averaged 20.6 minutes per game over the Gators final eight games. Allegheny went 5-3 during that time while Briscoe averaged 8.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.7 steals.



AC has strong underclass



Junior forward-center George Raftis is back as is every other player who averaged 15 minutes or more except Doug Price.

Price averaged 4.4 points and 4.1 rebounds while playing 20.3 minutes per game this season.

But Raftis, who averaged 15.2 points and 7.4 rebounds and Craig Devinney (11.9 points and 4.1 rebounds) highlight the Gators returners. In all, the Gators return 86 percent of their scoring from this season and 77 percent of their rebounding.



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