Men’s basketball: The man behind the shot that saved the Bobcats

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Men’s basketball: The man behind the shot that saved the Bobcats

Photo: Liz Flynn

Photo: Liz Flynn

Photo: Liz Flynn

Photo: Liz Flynn

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Aaron Robinson’s corner three solidified Quinnipiac’s biggest win since joining the MAAC in 2013, but it’s only a footnote in an already remarkable story.

The Bobcats were caught in an all-too-familiar dogfight late in the second half of the MAAC quarterfinals Friday night, battling through a 10-point deficit in the second half against heavily-favored Canisius to set up another close finish, similar to the double-overtime games the Bobcats had dropped in heartbreaking fashion during a frustrating February.

In the final nine minutes of the second half, the Bobcats tied the game on four different occasions and finally grabbed a narrow three-point lead with just over three minutes remaining in the second half. Still, the co-MAAC regular season champs were nipping at their heels, looking to hand the upset-minded Bobcats another dose of heartache. The Bobcats needed a dagger, a clutch shot to seize control of the draining back-and-forth affair.

Enter Aaron Robinson.

With just over 2:30 left in the second half, the Bobcats’ defense forced a steal and broke out in transition. Robinson found himself ahead of the action and crept to the far corner, unnoticed by the Golden Griffs’, who were scrambling back on defense after committing the turnover.

Robinson was used to being overlooked. After missing all of last season and taking a redshirt, the junior didn’t see any game action until the fourth game of the regular season. He saw his playing time increase in the final month of the season after his brother Andrew went down with a foot injury, yet entered the quarterfinal match averaging only 12.8 minutes per game.

Thankfully for the Bobcats, when Robinson’s number zero was called upon, he was ready.

Breaking out in transition, Rich Kelly floated a long pass to Robinson in the corner. Canisius junior Jonathan Sanks rushed to Robinson in an effort to contest the corner three, but he was too late. With no hesitation, Robinson let the biggest shot of his collegiate career fly.

Bang.

The Bobcats’ bench erupted as Canisius ordered a timeout to try and organize a comeback that would never materialize. An elated Robinson had given his team a six-point lead and vaulted the Bobcats’ into their first MAAC semifinals appearance since 2014.

“It was crazy man,” Robinson said the next morning, still floating on Cloud Nine. “Euphoric. You dream about stuff like that as a kid, to be in a moment like that and have a chance to make a shot like that.”

For Robinson, his unexpected heroics were about much more than the program’s biggest win in recent memory. It was about his mother, who passed away in November of 2016 and has never left his own memory.

“I know she’s watching up there in heaven,” Robinson said with a smile. “It’s good to know she’s still with us…Just to be able to hit that shot and know she was smiling down on me, that was a great moment.”

[youtube width=”750″ height=”400″]https://youtu.be/QcHHYvIvOok[/youtube]

It was a great moment for all of the Bobcats who rushed Robinson after his three-pointer scorched the bottom of the net. If you ask them, it couldn’t have happened to a better person.

“‘We felt really good for him,” head coach Baker Dunleavy said. “Any time a guy who deserves it has that happen to him, you feel even better. He works really hard…Never once has he asked me or questioned me about his role. He embraces everything he’s given, and he’s taken advantage of every opportunity.”

For Robinson, who watched his mother battle through Chron’s disease for as long as he could remember, how could he complain about his role on the team?

“She was sick her whole life, and she never complained about anything,” Robinson explained. “Never complained about the pain she was in. If she didn’t complain about that, how could I complain about something like (playing time)? It’s basketball. Life is so much bigger than that.”

After embracing his job as supporting cast, Robinson now embraces his role as the hero who saved the Bobcats’ season.

Even the humble Robinson knew he didn’t miss.

“When it left my hand I knew it was good,” Robinson said about his career-defining shot that has the Bobcats on the brink of their first-ever MAAC finals appearance. “I knew if it came to me, I was confident enough to make the shot. I just knew I had to shoot it if I got it.”

He got it, and he made it. In a season full of unexpected contributors, the Bobcats saved their biggest surprise for their season’s biggest moment.