BROWNWOOD, Texas – Tonight was an instant classic. 

McMurry Men’s Basketball took longtime rival Howard Payne to triple overtime inside Brownwood Coliseum on Saturday, finishing off a gutsy 125-112 win over the Yellow Jackets. 

The madness began at the end of regulation, as Howard Payne (4-12, 3-8 ASC) led 83-80 with just 1.3 seconds remaining. Elias Garcia – who also had the night of his career – sank the biggest shot of his career as time expired, forcing overtime with a perfect half-court heave. 

The score was 98-98 after the first overtime, then 108-108 after the second overtime. The third OT was never in doubt, as the War Hawks (6-8, 4-5 ASC) closed on a 17-4 scoring run for its second straight win. McMurry never trailed by more than three points in the contest. 

Saturday marked just the seventh triple overtime game in American Southwest Conference history, as well as the second in school history. McMurry won its only other triple overtime game, defeating Colorado College 131-128 in 1997. 

Speaking of history, the War Hawks set a new single-game school record for rebounds with 70. The previous record was set in 1978 against Jarvis Christian with 68. McMurry also fell just shy of the single game scoring record, set in 2000 against Howard Payne with 140. 

Sophomore CJ LeBlanc nearly made the record book with a game-high and career-high 42 points – just three points shy of the single-game points record set by Donnie Ray Cruse in 1979. LeBlanc also finished with 11 rebounds for the double-double and was two assists short of a triple-double. 

Meanwhile, Garcia set new career-highs in nearly every category with 27 points and a game-high 16 rebounds. He also led the team with five steals and played 44 minutes. 

The War Hawks rolled with just eight players Saturday – and all eight had an impact.  

Every McMurry player scored and seven players finished with at least five rebounds. 

Behind LeBlanc and Garcia, senior Remy Minor finished with 22 points and a career-high seven rebounds while going 7-8 from the free throw line. Junior Rob Charles added 11 points, while Michael Imariagbe chipped in eight. Both players added seven rebounds. 

Veteran forward Devon Webb had eight rebounds to go with five points, while rookie post Aaron Ramos had six points and five rebounds in a breakout week. Colby Cork also contributed four points, a pair of assists and a pair of rebounds, while forcing HPU into four fouls. 

In the first half, McMurry jumped out to a 46-37 lead behind 52.9 percent shooting, pulling ahead with a 14-0 run near the end of the half. The run turned a slim, one-point lead into a more comfortable 46-31 advantage.  

Although Howard Payne gained back a little momentum with a 6-0 run before halftime, McMurry was able to lead for most of the second half. Trailing by 14 early in the second frame, the Yellow Jackets worked back into it with a 9-0 run. The lead changed multiple times, eventually resulting in an 80-80 stalemate near the buzzer. 

With 1.3 seconds to go, HPU’s Tyrell Thompson converted an and-one to make it 83-80, sending the home crowd into a frenzy. The “start the bus” cheers above the visiting bench were immediately silenced as Garcia’s buzzer beater tickled the twine. 

The War Hawks scored the first nine points of overtime, but HPU continued fighting back and eventually found itself behind 98-95 with nine seconds to go. Myles Brown sank the game-tying three-pointer as time expired, re-igniting the crowd and sending it to double-overtime.  

More drama unfolded in the second overtime, as HPU led out of the gate. Garcia and Charles each sank free throws to make it 108-104 with 21 seconds to go, but a pull-up three pointer by HPU brought it back to a one-point game. Then, a five second call on McMurry’s inbound resulted in a turnover. The Yellow Jackets sent Thompson back to the line, who made one of two to tie it. Webb tried to win it from half court at the buzzer, but hit the glass and missed the rim. 

The third overtime saw LeBlanc, Minor and Garcia take over with 15 combined points, while the defense limited HPU to just 2-13 shooting. 

The War Hawks finished 43-100 from the field – one shy of a school record for field goal attempts – for 43.0 percent. They also went 10-38 behind the arc (26.3 percent) and 29-39 from the charity stripe (74.4 percent). 

Howard Payne finished 40-108 from the floor for 37.0 percent and were led by Fredrick Watts with 26 points. 

McMurry begins a two-game home stand on Thursday, Jan. 20 at 5:30 p.m. against Belhaven.