It was looking bleak for the Erie BayHawks on Sunday afternoon against the New Mexico Thunderbirds
Their best player, Ivan Johnson, was on the bench with five fouls for most of the third quarter and the BayHawks watched their 15-point lead evaporate.
Erie led 70-55 when its first-year coach, Jay Larranaga, took Johnson out after Johnson picked up his fifth foul with 9 minutes, 52 seconds left in the third.
From that point, the Thunderbirds outscored the BayHawks, 31-11, to take a 86-81 lead with 57 seconds left in the quarter. Shane Edwards had finally showed up for the Thunderbirds as the 2011 D-League All-Star forward had 14 points in the quarter.
In New Mexico’s previous two games at Erie in this three-game series, Edwards had 13 points total.
So the Thunderbirds (14-21) had a five-point lead with the ball when Erie (23-9) turned the tables on them.
Forward Marcus Hubbard was in open court looking to put pressure on the defense, but was trying to put a move on Erie guard Blake Ahearn.
Ahearn stole the ball from Hubbard, who fouled Ahearn in trying to steal the ball back. (Hubbard and Ahearn both played for the Dakota Wizards in 2008-09 by the way.)
Ahearn goes to the line, makes two free throws and Erie cuts New Mexico’s lead to three with 28.3 points. So you’re thinking the Thunderbirds are going to get the final shot of the quarter with a chance to go up five or six, right?
Josh Bostic turned the ball over with 9.9 seconds left to Tasheed Carr, who broke into the open court. Instead of taking the ball to the basket, Carr slowed down and kicked the ball to Ahearn for a 3-pointer.
Ahearn hit the 3 to tie the game with 4.7 seconds left.
So instead of being up by as many as eight, New Mexico found itself in a tie game, 86-86, heading into the fourth quarter. Oh how quickly a game can change, but those things tend to happen when a team is winning and Erie is on a major roll right now.
As it heads in to the D-League All-Star break, Erie has now won eight straight games overall to match a franchise record for longest win streak in a season. The BayHawks are now 12-1 at home and have won 11 consecutive games at Tullio Arena. They will play 11 of their last 19 games at home.
If the playoffs ended today, Erie would be a third seed and have home-court advantage in the first round of a best-of-3 playoff series.