WATERVILLE — Tyler Williams won’t soon forget his first collegiate jump shot. He might never be able to top it.

A freshman guard, Williams buried his one and only 3-point attempt as the buzzer blared throughout Wadsworth Gymnasium on Friday night, lifting the Colby men’s basketball team to a 97-96 win over Pine Manor College in the opener of the Colby Classic tournament.

“It was exciting. That was fun,” said Williams, one of eight freshmen on the roster for Colby (1-0). “It just kind of happened. That’s not at all the way I would have drawn it up. I was just happy to play.”

“There’s nothing like seeing that ball go through the net with the buzzer going off,” Colby head coach Damien Strahorn added. “What a way to start a career.”

Seven Colby players finished in double figures, including freshman forward Sean Gilmore (team-high 17 points and seven rebounds). Fifth-year senior Patrick Stewart of Bangor scored 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds.

Junior point guard Taverick Roberson had a game-high 29 points for Pine Manor (2-1), which also got 15 points and 13 rebounds from freshman forward Rasheed Bell.

Pine Manor, which was chasing a deficit of between seven and 10 points for much of the second half, finally rallied to tie the game with 1:15 remaining. The Gators kept a key possession alive with four successive offensive rebounds, finally getting a Chancie Williams bucket to pull within 94-92. After each team missed open shots on their next possessions, Gator guard Erick Rosario finally drove through the lane and knotted the score at 94-94.

Less than 30 seconds later, it was Rosario again whose running floater put Pine Manor up by two.

Stewart fouled Roberson in a last-gasp effort to regain possession, sending Roberson to the foul line for a one-and-one. Roberson missed the front half, but Makai Hunter’s offensive rebound — the sixth for Pine Manor in the final two and a half minutes — set up a jump ball and a Pine Manor inbounds pass under the basket with 11 seconds remaining.

Stewart teamed with Ethan Schlager to force a turnover along the baseline, and Stewart heaved the ball up the court with only a few ticks showing on the clock. Alex Dorion received the pass at midcourt and found Williams waiting in the corner.

“That was my first jump shot. That was it, the only one,” said Williams, who had 10 points, four off layups and three from the foul line.

“That’s a great way to start,” Stewart added. “Tyler played out of his mind tonight. He was fantastic.”

In their first test of the new year, Strahorn seemed right to put so much faith in Colby’s youth. The Mules erased a 12-point deficit midway through the first half, were on pace to crack the century mark, handled Pine Manor’s persistent full-court pressure and didn’t crack when they lost the lead with under 47 seconds remaining.

For an inexperienced team, it’s precisely the kind of victory that can provide confidence through a season’s early building blocks.

“This is a process. I think we all know we’re young, but I think our young guys are talented,” Strahorn said. “I think the strength of this team is going to be in our depth.”

That depth was needed, particularly in a first half that could have gotten away from Colby. The Gators bolted out to a 30-12 lead as the Mules tried to find their shooting touch. It finally came with less than eight and a half minutes remaining, as Stewart — who missed his first three attempts from beyond the arc — began to heat up. He hit a short jumper to cut the Pine Manor lead to nine and then drained threes on consecutive trips down the floor to pull within 32-27.

Stewart led all of NCAA Division III in 3-point shooting percentage last season at 52.3 percent.

At the same time, Pine Manor went cold. After making nine of their first 15 field goal attempts to begin the night, the Gators closed the first half by making only two of their final 12 shots as Colby took a 52-44 lead into halftime on the strength of a 29-7 run over the final six and a half minutes.

All that was forgotten by the time Williams sent the Mules home happy, however.

“I couldn’t be happier with what just happened and how we won that game,” said Stewart, who missed his entire junior year due to injury and had an extra year of eligibility. “The young guys’ contributions were absolutely fantastic. I hope we can build off that momentum going forward.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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