In addition, former Shark Jordan Sears scored 37 points against his old team.
Down 79-76 with 3 seconds remaining in double overtime, it appeared the Buccaneers were dead in the water.
Moments earlier, Mainland seemed to squander its final chance to tie the game when point guard Jordan Sears’ pass ended up in the hands of Buccaneers head coach Joe Giddens.
Many of the hundreds of fans who packed the stands at Embry-Riddle’s ICI Fieldhouse stood out of their seats, descended the stairs and left the building. Some Atlantic fans taunted Mainland’s bench as they made their way toward the exits.
That didn’t sit well with Buccaneers forward Johnny Brown.
“I told coach the game wasn’t over yet,” he said. “I just had to keep believing. I couldn’t give up.”
Brown used every inch of his 6-foot-8 frame to fluster Atlantic’s Devon Robinson on the inbounds pass. With every second that passed by, Robinson grew more and more antsy. In a desperate attempt to avoid a 5-second violation, Robinson flung the ball at Brown’s feet, hoping the ball would bounce back out of bounds.
“Everybody thinks we have beef with them, but there’s no bad blood. It's just they have their boys over there, and we have our boys over here. Only one team can win, so we’re going to compete every time."
Buccaneers forward Johnny Brown on Mainland's rivalry with Atlantic
Instead, Brown stole the pass, turned around to face the basket and heaved a deep 3-pointer from the left wing as the buzzer sounded — tie game.
It was the second time in less than a year that Brown had stunned the Sharks. He sank a go-ahead layup as time expired to lift Mainland over Atlantic on Jan. 19.
“I always tell him to keep shooting, even if he’s struggling,” Giddens said of Brown, who had only 7 points and one 3-pointer until that moment. “Eventually it’s going to go in.”
Atlantic was poised to maintain its undefeated record. The Sharks initially sent the game into overtime due to a last-second 3-pointer by De’Andre Harvey at the end of the fourth quarter. But Brown’s game-saving heroics and 37 points by Sears lifted the Buccaneers to an unexpected 94-88 win on the night of Friday, Dec. 14.
Sears was engaged from the opening tip. He scored 19 of his 37 points in the first half and connected on 13-of-23 field goal attempts, including four 3-pointers.
“I just had tunnel vision,” he said.
Although Sears said it was his teammates who got him "fired up” to play, Giddens thought there might have been extra motivation for Sears to beat the Sharks, who he played for the past two seasons before transferring to Mainland.
“He didn’t say it, but I could see it,” Giddens said. “His teammates did a great job supporting him the whole way.”
He added: “This team is starting to come together. They’re starting to trust each other. I stress team every day. They did a great job as a team continuing to fight.”
Mainland has won all three of its meetings with Atlantic since Giddens took over the program in 2017-18. The Buccaneers will have a chance to extend their steak over Atlantic to four games when the Buccaneers host the Sharks on Jan. 25.
Sears is more than ready for the rematch against his former teammates, coaches and school.
"Off the court we’re all friends, we’re all blood," he said. "But when we get between the lines, there’s no friends. It’s time to go to battle."