With 28.1 seconds left, Penn was tied with Wagner, 62-62, and the ball was in the hands of freshman Tony Bagtas.
But unlike against Villanova on Wednesday, Bagtas’ star did not shine bright enough, as the freshman guard turned the ball over on a double-ball screen, leading to an overtime period.
“I was confident that Tony was going to be able to make a play for one of those guys or for himself,” Penn coach Jerome Allen said. “Unfortunately, he didn’t continue to dribble when he put the ball between his legs, but that’s okay.
“He’s a freshman, and it’s something I was willing to live with.”
And in overtime, the Quakers wilted offensively, letting Wagner get the best of them with a 75-69 win at the Palestra.
Penn was unable to score until the final 30 seconds of the extra period, giving Wagner a chance to put the game out of reach before Bagtas hit his only three of the game.
And by then, it was too late. The Seahawks hit 10 free throws in the extra session and Penn couldn’t get within three points after Wagner guard Jay Harris hit a three in the final two minutes.
The last eight minutes of regulation were the epitome of back and forth. Neither side being able to extend its lead to more than four points before the opposition came storming back.
After an ugly first half, each side found ways to produce offensively. The Seahawks found ways to get inside for layups and fouls, leading to made free throws.
For Penn, the squad stayed in the game down the stretch thanks to the performance of senior captain Fran Dougherty.
Dougherty scored just two baskets in the first 20 minutes, but led the Quakers offense in the second half, adding 13 points to his team-high 17 points as he led Penn’s attack.
But for both Penn and Wagner, the first half told a completely different story, as neither team could find any sort of rhythm.
Penn started out the first half in pretty fashion, getting off to a quick start. Thanks to some solid passing from Bagtas, the Quakers found themselves in possession of an early 12-4 lead.
From there, it was nothing if not ugly. The teams combined to go 14-for-59 in the first half, a paltry 24 percent from the field by the Seahawks and Quakers.
“As a player playing at Drexel, I never liked playing here at the Palestra,” Wagner coach Bashir Mason said.
“I thought in the first half, we had some good looks, and I heard my guys say, ‘Man, when it’s leaving my hand, it feels like it’s good but it’s not going in.’”
And with the game on the line, the Red and Blue retreated to their first-half ways, unable to find the bottom of the basket while Wagner took the game away from them.
“As the game progresses, you hope that you can find your offensive rhythm,” Allen said. “We had a couple spurts here or there, but it just didn’t go our way.”
While Dougherty put in a solid game, strong performances were few and far between for the Quakers. Nelson-Henry struggled from the field, going 2-for-7 on his way to 11 points.
And while the backcourt duo of senior Miles Cartwright and sophomore Tony Hicks combined for 23 points, they shot 6-for-22 and had 10 turnovers between the two of them.
Meanwhile, Wagner’s own go-to backcourt duo of seniors Kenneth Ortiz and Latif Rivers each had strong games, scoring 18 points a piece while going 16-for-19 from the charity stripe.
There were some positive for the Red and Blue as they continued their recent trend of success in the post. winning the rebound margin for the fourth straight game.
And while he turned the ball over at the end of regulation, Bagtas was efficient once again on offense, collecting eight assists to just three turnovers while running the point for Penn.
“He had eight assists tonight,” Allen said. “But I’m quite sure he had another five hockey assists or assists that led to an assist.
“He has a chance to be a pretty solid player for us, and I hope he gets better.”
But ultimately, those positives were not enough as Penn walked away with its third straight loss. The Quakers will resume play in two weeks when they face Marist on Dec. 22.
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