Uniontown, PA - The JWU men's basketball team took on 9th seeded Penn State-York on Tuesday night with a trip to the national championship game on the line. The 5th seeded Wildcats overcame a 7 point halftime deficit with a strong second half performance to claim a 77-65 victory, and earn a shot at the title on Wednesday.
The first half was a back and forth affair that say both teams enjoy leads. JWU's largest lead was 7 after a Robert Hobson three pointer put the Wildcats up 22-15 with 9:23 remaining. The Lions answered with a 20-6 run to close the first half and would head into the locker room with a 35-28 lead. Derek Hoffman paced PSU-York (22-9) with 9 points and 9 rebounds, while Majerle Poole also had 9 points for JWU (21-10).
The second half started with a 7-0 Wildcat run to tie the game at 35, before a Derrick Hoffman three point play briefly restored the lead for the Lions. Kajuan Madden-McAfee's three with 16:09 left to play put the Wildcats up, 40-38. This was part of a 23-9 JWU run over the next seven and a half minutes that proved to be the turning point of the game. PSU-York briefly closed to within 5 at 58-53 with 6:40 left. A JWU timeout and consecutive layups by PJ Gill righted the ship, and the Wildcats would sail from there. Johnson & Wales made defensive stops and converted key free throws late to seal the 77-65 win.
The rebounding battle was close, with PSUY edging JWU 50-49, but it was the Wildcats' perimeter defense that made the difference. They forced the Lions into 2-22 shooting from three while connecting on 10-26 themselves. The Wildcats shot 42% from the floor and assisted on 16 of their 31 made field goals. JWU also held the edge in second chance points (19-13) and points off turnovers (19-15).
"Really proud of the second half effort our guys showed tonight. We simply didn't play our game in the first half of the basketball game on either end," commented Wildcats Head Coach Dan Larkin on the victory. "What really propelled us for that stretch in the second half was our defensive rebounding and defensive togetherness, it initiated a lot of offense for us and got us back where we needed to be. We've believed all year that when we play with effort and trust on both ends of the floor, good things happen."
Madden-McAfee led all scorers with 23 points, including a 4-8 three-point shooting effort. He also added 5 assists and 4 rebounds. Majerle Poole collected 13 rebounds in addition to his 16 points for the Wildcats. PJ Gill contributed 14 points and 4 steals while Hobson added 10 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists. Jackson Baylark finished the game with 6 blocks and 7 rebounds to go with his 6 points.
The Wildcats will play in the USCAA D2 National Championship on Wednesday, March 6th, at 7:00 pm where they will take on #3 Penn State Wilkes-Barre for the title.