When the Oakland University Golden Grizzlies hosted the Green Bay Phoenix on Sunday, Feb. 23, there was a different feel to the air inside the O’rena.
It was Senior Day and the presumed final home game for Oakland’s longest tenured players, Xavier Hill-Mais and Brad Brechting. Over the last five years, players have come and gone but Hill-Mais and Brechting have remained at Oakland.
Both players appeared in at least 30 games in all four of their seasons at Oakland, and the rest of the Golden Grizzlies played knowing the importance of this game for their two veterans.
Although the contest took two overtimes, Oakland won on Senior Night, defeating Green Bay 92-88. The Golden Grizzlies were supported primarily by Hill-Mais, scoring 31 points, falling one shy of tying his career high while also recording 13 rebounds.
Hill-Mais would lead the team on a five-point swing late in the second overtime that would seal the game.
“The guys had my back,” Hill-Mais said. “Taking it to double overtime against a very good team and pulling the game out at the end makes (Senior Night) that much more special.”
Oakland also received support from Rashad Williams’ five three-point shots and 19 points in general. Williams would start slow but began to heat up as the game progressed.
Daniel Oladapo and Tray Maddox Jr. would both log 17 points each, while combining for 25 of the team’s 53 rebounds (17 and eight, respectively). Brad Brechting would also assist in bringing home the victory for the Golden Grizzlies, recording two blocks as the game neared to a close.
The Golden Grizzlies performed in the clutch, but their performance peaked on a perfectly scripted missed free throw that fell to Hill-Mais to tie the game with seconds left in overtime.
Oakland has begun to gather some traction as the regular season comes to an end. As the week ends, Oakland finds themselves sitting in seventh place, locking in a trip to the Horizon League Tournament in Indianapolis. The tournament starts Monday, March 9, and with the way things are headed, the Golden Grizzlies are poised to face the fifth or sixth seed.
Over the years, many wild, unpredictable endings have came from the Horizon League Tournament. Almost every year, there is a team that upsets another. While Oakland has tended to be on the negative end, perhaps Williams’ late instatement, Oakland could be the surprise team.
Making it to the Horizon League Tournament has always been the goal for Oakland as a trip to the Horizon League Tournament can lead to a trip to the NCAA tournament.
“Brad Brechting has always been by my side,” Hill-Mais said. “After what happened to us last year in the Horizon League Championship … we told each other we weren’t going to leave and were going to come back and fight again.”
Golden Grizzly pride has been forever implemented in these two athletes.
“I love every single one of you,” Brechting said to the crowd. “I’ll treat Oakland like a second home for the rest of my life.”