PHILADELPHIA – Somewhere in the second overtime, Drexel coach Denise Dillon was running out of water and Northeastern’s Daynia La-Force Mann was running out of movies to quote.
It was the game that wouldn’t end.
The teams went at it for five overtimes Thursday night, exhaustion and injuries taking a toll. Drexel finally prevailed, winning 98-90 in the longest game in NCAA Division I women’s basketball history. Two Division II games have gone to five overtimes.
“As the game went on, we just tried to find humor in it,” Dillon said Friday. “It was almost like a boxing match.”
Northeastern’s Shaleyse Smallwood finished with 37 points despite the flu. Drexel’s Delise Johnson was cut on the head diving for a loose ball in the third overtime. Jody Burrows, one of Northeastern’s starting guards, played with a partially torn knee ligament.
Even the crowd was in bad shape. Twice, 911 had to be called for medical emergencies in the stands.
“I was thinking, five overtimes, are you kidding me?” Smallwood said. “Are we going to play all night?”
Smallwood nearly did – she played 63 of the game’s 65 minutes.
“I didn’t have class today, thank God,” Smallwood said after she grabbed a few hours sleep following the Huskies’ 5 a.m. arrival in Boston. “Some of my teammates did, I don’t know how they did it.”
Drexel’s Gabriela Marginean, a freshman from Romania, scored 20 points after regulation and finished with a school-record 47 points to lead the Dragons – and then had to be up for a 10 a.m. math class. Getting a win made it a little easier, though.
“I thought I was going to be really tired,” Marginean said. “But I wasn’t – I was so excited we won.”
The Dragons squandered a 13-point halftime lead and trailed in the closing seconds before Marginean hit 1 of 2 foul shots at the end of regulation to tie it at 55.
But it seemed every time Drexel took control, Smallwood would hit a big shot. Three times she hit baskets to force another overtime. A pair of foul shots tied it at 85 and sent the game to a record fifth OT – breaking the Division I mark set 11 times, most recently by Northern Illinois and Bowling Green in 2004.
La-Force Mann found herself mentally going through all the sports movies she had seen, like “Hoosiers,” trying to come up with something to say to her team.
“I guess it was the fourth overtime, I said, ‘I’ve got nothing to tell you guys now. I’ve said it all,’ ” she said Friday. “I think I went through every pep talk I had.”
Meanwhile, Dillon was running low on fluids – and she wasn’t even playing.
“I was thirsty,” she said. “I was out of water in the second overtime. It was comical.”
Finally, more than three hours after tip-off, Drexel’s Narissa Suber nailed back-to-back 3-pointers to put the Dragons ahead for good in the final overtime.
“It was something special,” Dillon said.
But there weren’t a whole lot of people to see it. Drexel officials estimated the attendance at about 250 at tip-off.
The Dragons (8-19, 3-13 Colonial Athletic Association) are an inexperienced team. Northeastern (4-23, 3-13) barely has enough players to practice because of an onslaught of injuries.
The Drexel school paper didn’t even cover the game. After editors found out why it was taking so long to get a photo, they had to scramble to get a story in the paper.
In fact, more attention was directed at a men’s game three blocks away, where Saint Joseph’s was playing Temple at the Palestra before more than 8,000 people.
The game was even hard on official scorer Michelle Lilienthal. Her scorebook was in shambles as the game kept going.
“After the third overtime, I was like, ‘Well, this isn’t going to be very coherent,’ ” she said. ” ‘I’ll just enjoy the game.’ “