With the SWC's semifinals final seconds ticking away in Bethel's win over No. 3 Notre Dame, Matt Liquori swooped in to intercept the Lancers' inbounds pass from under their own basket.
Liquori then lofted the ball up for teammate Daniel Garvin, who soared above the rim and threw down an emphatic two-handed dunk just before the buzzer to seal second-seeded Bethel's 75-67 victory and punch the Wildcats' ticket to their first SWC final.
Bethel had never won an SWC tournament game prior to this season.
"We're excited. It's the first championship in Bethel's history that we're going for," Garvin said. "We just have to keep working hard to win this."
Garvin, a 6-foot-6 senior forward who will play for Bryant University next year, was once again unstoppable for the Wildcats: collecting 30 points and 23 rebounds, blocking seven shots and misdirecting others. Griffin Teed chipped in with a season-high 15 points to go along with six rebounds.
"They're almost impossible to defend," Turek said of Notre Dame's dynamic duo of Upchurch and Coleman. "They're so fast and they wear you down. In this case, they got a couple of our guys in foul trouble. It's constant pressure on our guards."
With the game on the line, Garvin rose to the occasion, scoring 10 points and grabbing several key rebounds in the final three minutes -- despite picking up his fourth foul with 4:28 remaining -- to help the Wildcats fend off Notre Dame's furious comeback.
"They could have easily collapsed, and they didn't," Notre Dame coach Vin Laczkoski said of Bethel. "Give them credit."
The Lancers trailed by 12 midway through the third quarter. They chipped away to make it a three-point deficit heading to the fourth quarter and took their first lead of the second half, 61-60, on a Jennings bucket with 3:23 remaining.
The lead changed hands six times down the stretch, but a quick 6-0 run gave Bethel a bit of breathing room. Liquori laid one in off a pass from Frankie Magrone to put Bethel up 66-65 with 1:22 remaining. Calvin Daniels added a basket off a pass from Carson Duffy to make it 68-65 with 49.6 seconds to go. Garvin then hit both ends of a 1-and-1 to make it 70-65 with 33.4 seconds to go.
An Upchurch basket with 26 seconds remaining cut the lead to three, but Garvin hit two more foul shots with 12.1 seconds to go to make it a five-point game again. On Notre Dame's next possession, Daniels grabbed a key defensive rebound, was fouled and sank one of two foul shots to make it 73-67 with six seconds to go -- just enough time for one last dunk from Garvin.
"We just had to stay strong and finish the game," Garvin said.
The Lancers kept their poise and confidence when they were down by 12. They had been in that situation several times already this season and pulled off improbable comeback victories. They very nearly did it again on Tuesday.
"Our third game of the year, we played University and we were down 19 at the end of the first quarter," Laczkoski recalled. "We came back to win by five. Being down doesn't bother these guys. They don't quit."
Notre Dame will look to regroup to make a run in the upcoming Class M state tournament. Bethel is also in Class M.
SWC semifinals at Newtown
NOTRE DAME (15-6)
Dan Upchurch 8 13-14 30; C.J. Davidson 2 1-2 5; Earl Coleman 9 2-4 20; Kevin Laing 0 0-0 0; Jaylen Jennings 3 2-2 8; Jake Heaton 1 2-2 4; Jordan Pettway 0 0-0 0; Jesse McIntosh 0 0-0 0. Totals: 23 20-24 67.
Frankie Magrone 2 0-0 4; James Jerolimo 3 0-0 8; Carson Duffy 2 1-2 6; Griffin Teed 6 3-4 15; Matt Liquori 3 1-3 9; Daniel Garvin 11 8-10 30; Calvin Daniels 1 1-2 3; Ian Melvin 0 0-0 0. Totals: 28 14-21 75.
NOTRE DAME 11 19 20 17 -- 67
BETHEL 11 21 21 22 -- 75
3-pointers: ND--Upchurch; B--Liquori 2, Jerolimo 2, Duffy.