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March Madness: Wagner holds on for first tournament win after Howard's late burst of missed shots

DAYTON, OHIO - MARCH 19: Seth Towns #31 of the Howard Bison reacts after being defeated by the Wagner Seahawks 71-68 in the First Four game during the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at University of Dayton Arena on March 19, 2024 in Dayton, Ohio. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Howard's Seth Towns reacts after the final seconds of a loss to the Wagner Seahawks in the First Four. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) (Dylan Buell via Getty Images)

The Wagner Seahawks are advancing from the NCAA tournament's First Four after a finish that won't soon be forgotten by any member of the Howard Bison.

Howard, having been down by as much as 17 points in the second half, needed a 3-pointer to tie the game in its final seconds Tuesday. The team missed three consecutive 3-point attempts before the buzzer in the 71-68 loss.

The final moments of the game were on par with the spirit of March Madness, where anything can happen. Wagner maintained a lead for most of the game, ending the first half with a 38-27 advantage. It maintained that momentum early in the second half, when Seahawks forward Keyontae Lewis tipped one in for a 48-31 lead with more than 16 minutes remaining in the game.

But Howard outscored them 41-33 in the second half, closing on a 14-4 run. The rally came with three minutes and 10 seconds remaining on the clock, when Howard guard Marcus Dockery scored from beyond the arc to make the score 67-57. Senior forward Seth Towns followed up with a 3-pointer of his own for the Bison. Lewis then sent Howard junior Bryce Harris to the free-throw line, and he converted on a both of his attempts to cut the deficit to 67-62.

Wagner guard Melvin Council Jr., who scored a game-high 21 points, was the only Seahawk to score a field goal in the final moments of the win. He put up a jumper, but Howard’s Isiah Warfield responded with back-to-back layups in the last two minutes. A following layup from Harris closed Wagner's lead to one-point with 18 seconds left. Wagner's Julian Brown was fouled, accounting for two more points against the Bison in the last 15 seconds.

That's when the series of missed 3-pointers began.

It was the first NCAA tournament win in Wagner's history, and it'll be rewarded with a matchup against the No. 1-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels in the first round Thursday. Wagner's last appearance in the Round of 64 came in 2003.