By DAVID MCCOLLUM

LOG CABIN STAFF WRITER

For Conway’s Jarvis Garner, the first time was amazing, the second an omen.

For the University of Central Arkansas Bears, the third time was a charm.

Garner, a 6-foot-7 junior forward, took a halfcourt pass, got control of the ball and with two men on him, flung a high-arcing, 30-foot shot that went in the basket for a 3-pointer with .4 seconds left to incredibly send Thursday night’s game against McNeese State into overtime.

For an encore, he leaned, twisted, found an opening for a shot and banked in another 3-pointer from 24 feet to send the game into a second overtime at the Farris Center.

That provided the fuel for the Bears (7-10, 2-5) to finally prevail in a game for insomniacs, 103-98, in three overtimes, the first triple-overtime game for the UCA men since their Division II days against Christian Brothers University (in 2003).

More importantly, it sent the Bears into Saturday afternoon’s home game against Lamar (winless in conference play) with a two-game conference winning streak.

"The first shot, I really didn’t have time to think about anything, just grab and shoot," said Garner, who had one of the best games of his career with 38 points, 15 rebounds and five assists. "I thought I had a good look and if I could get it off, I felt it could go in. After that, I believed we could win. The second one was more difficult. I had to lean a little bit and I might have gotten hit a little on the arm, but that’s not gonna be called in that situation. When it banked in, I thought it was destiny that we were going to win."

"Jarvis lives for the bigtime moments," said UCA coach Corliss Williamson. "He wants the ball in those situation. That first one was a prayer that got answered. I want a guy who likes to step up and wants the ball in those situations."

Garner added, "I hit one (a 3-pointer) in a similar situation last year against Henderson State, so I knew I could do it. It’s not a situation I like to be in but I like the challenge."

There was still work to do after the first overtime.

With both teams battling furiously, UCA squandered a six-point lead with 2:59 left in the second overtime. McNeese took a 94-92 lead with 39 seconds left on a lane runner by Desharick Guidry. The Bears’ Anthony Borden sent the game into triple overtime with a lane drive with 16 seconds left. LaQuentin Miles blocked Dontae Cannon’s jump shot in the final seconds.

UCA trailed 97-96 with 2:53 left in the third overtime when Borden, a 6-10 post having his best game as a Bear, blocked a shot that led to a fast-break layup by DeShone McClure. After Garner rebounded a McNeese miss, he maneuvered in the lane for a floater that gave UCA a 100-97 lead with 1:07 left. He and McClure then connected on three free throws in the final 22.2 to finally send a crowd of 2,712 home.

Garner was 14 of 19 from the field, six of nine from long range. Miles had 25 points, 10 assists. Borden added 14 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in 30 minutes of play.

"We were waiting for Anthony to have a big game," said Williamson, whose team outrebounded the Cowboys (8-9, 2-5) by 56-46 and had 23 second-chance points. "He stepped up at the right time. He got some big rebounds, a tip-in or two and shot the basketball well.

"(Daouda) Barete gave us some solid minutes in the third overtime when Q (Miles) got a little fatigued. DeShone McClure did a good job on (Ledrick) Eackles, one of their best shooters, in denying him good looks in overtime. He’s another player who lives for the big moments and he likes to defend the best scorer on the other team."

Eackles led the Cowboys with 26 points, Guidry added 20 points and 11 rebounds.

"It was just an all-around team effort where we continued to fight and believed we could win the game," Williamson said.

(David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235 or david.mccollum@thecabin.net)