The following is a press release from the West Chester University Athleti Department.
Junior Jon Breeden nailed a 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds remaining to lift host West Chester University to a 54-51 victory over visiting Indiana (Pa.) in a PSAC men’s basketball semifinal Friday night inside a frenzied Hollinger Field House jammed with 1,134 uncontrollable fans.
West Chester (19-9) advances to its third PSAC Championship Game and first since 2001 with the win. The Golden Rams will take on East Stroudsburg, who was a 66-58 winner over Mercyhurst in the other semifinal at Hollinger Friday. IUP (23-5) saw its bid for a third straight conference crown come to a close and must wait until Sunday night to see if the Crimson Hawks will be invited to the 2012 NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Tournament. IUP was ranked sixth in the latest NCAA Atlantic Region polls.
Saturday night, West Chester will play for its second PSAC championship and first since 1959.
“All year long, we’ve talked about making history,” WCU fourth-year head coach Damien Blair commented afterwards. “Now, there is an opportunity for us to do so on our home court, which is a great situation.”
Breeden’s backcourt-mate, Carl Johnson, converted a three-point play with 1:05 remaining that pulled West Chester within one (49-48). IUP’s Kevin Jones then hit a pair of free throws to push the visitor’s lead to three. However, Johnson knocked down a 3-pointer from beyond the arc to knot things up at 51-all with 47 seconds left.
Following a timeout, PSAC West offensive player of the year Ashton Smith missed a jumper that was rebounded by Breeden. The junior walked the ball up the floor and waited to take the last shot of regulation. With six seconds on the clock, he made his play and pulled up for a 3-ball off the dribble – draining it and sending Hollinger Field House into a deafening uproar. IUP’s inbounds pass was knocked away by Troy Hockaday, and the 1,134 fans stormed the floor in celebration.
“This was one of the tougher road atmospheres to overcome,” IUP head coach Joe Lombardi said. “We were trying to win three straight conference championships, which is something I guess that hasn’t been done in over 30 years or so.”
“The whole game, our guys crawled back and fought,” Breeden said. “I’m really proud of our team. I had a similar shot like that in high school, but it’s nothing like when you’re living in the moment right now.”
“Only on TV,” senior Lance McDowell interjected about Breeden’s heroics. “That’s probably the biggest shot I’ve ever seen in person.”
West Chester trailed, 38-24, with 14:11 left in the game. However, the Rams outscored the Hawks 30-13 the rest of the way to pull out an improbable come-from-behind victory.
“We committed a couple turnovers that seemed to get them going,” Lombardi added. “We couldn’t stay consistent on offense, and that gave (WCU) hope. Our defense was very good for most of the night. Even at the end, I thought it was very good.”
“Tonight was a typical PSAC game on both ends of the floor,” Blair explained. “It was extremely physical, and our kids never gave up. We were down the whole game. We didn’t play one of our better games. But, down the stretch, we had some key possessions. It was a great team effort, but I don’t want them to lose sight (of what’s ahead). It’s a good win against a very good team, but we got one more game.”
Friday’s semifinal was the lowest scoring PSAC Tournament game since Edinboro defeated Shippensburg, 52-51, in 2006 in the conference championship game in the very same building.
Freshman Corey Blake finished with 14 points, along with Johnson. Blake also added 11 rebounds to record his third double-double of the year. Ironically, his first collegiate double-double came at IUP in January (16 pts, 10 rebs). McDowell posted 10 points, and Breeden finished with nine – though none were more important than the final three.
Smith and Julian Sanders each posted a game-high 16 points for the Crimson Hawks. Anthony Wells had nine.
The PSAC men’s basketball championship game will be held Saturday night with tip-off set for 7 p.m. With neither East Stroudsburg or West Chester being ranked in the latest regional poll, tomorrow night’s winner gets the PSAC’s automatic qualifier into the NCAA Tournament while the loser closes out the 2011-12 campaign.
NOTES: West Chester will make its third appearance in the PSAC Championship Game Saturday … the Golden Rams fell to Edinboro out west in 1998 (83-77) and dropped an 80-77 OT thriller to Clarion in Edinboro in 2001 … the only connection between this year’s squad and both of those title game participants is assistant coach Roy Blumenthal, who was an assistant for Dick DeLaney both years … Blumenthal will be coaching in his third conference championship game … WCU took a 10-9 lead in the overall series against IUP with the win – ending a four-game skid against the Hawks in the process … the 2012 PSAC Championship Game will be an All-East final for the first time since 2007 when Millersville defeated Cheyney … West Chester is now 10-13 all-time in the PSAC Tournament … the Golden Rams have not won a PSAC Tournament … the school’s 1959 championship was awarded to West Chester without a postseason tournament.