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Swaback

WAYNE, N.J. -- Scranton overcame an 18-point second-half deficit to stun the Messiah 70-67 in overtime in first-round action of the Division III tourney on Friday night. The Royals -- who were riding a five-game NCAA tournament losing streak -- won their first tourney game since 2003.

“This has to be the largest comeback I’ve ever been involved in,” Scranton head coach Carl Danzig said, who recorded his 200th-career victory and joins legendary coach Bob Bessoir as the only coaches in Royal history to win 200 games. “This is just a great group of kids and they have that never-give-up attitude.”

Luke Hawk led Scranton, which won its fourth consecutive contest to improve to 21-7, with 20 points. Ross Danzig added 16 points, Tommy Morgan finished with 14, and Travis Farrell had 11 for the Royals.

David Fernandez scored 22 points and Craig Bowen added 14 for the Messiah, which puts the wraps on a 20-7 season.

The methodical Falcons ran their offensive sets to perfection early in the game. They carved out an quick 7-point lead, led by four at intermission and appeared to have the game in check midway through the second half after the Royals went scoreless for more than seven minutes after Scranton had closed to 32-31 with 15:12 remaining. Derek Moseley hit a pair of 3-pointers to spark a 17-0 run as Messiah built up what appeared to be an insurmountable 49-31 lead with 8:06 left.

“Hats off to Messiah,” said Hawk. “They had us flustered the entire first half and the first part of the second half.  Then we just caught fire.”

Hawk wasn’t about to put the wraps on his outstanding career.  He ignited the game-deciding 30-12 rally with a 3-pointer that included a pair of three pointers from Farrell, one from Morgan, and the one that Royal fans will remember for years to come -- the one that tied it with 1.2 seconds remaining by Matt Swaback, which turned out to be his only basket of the game.

“We have a lot of veterans on this team and we have the confidence that when we get down we feel like we’re going to win,” Hawk said. “That was Swaback’s first shot he made and it was a crazy shot. He was three feet beyond the [3-point] line, but I knew it was going in when he shot it.”

Hawk then opened the overtime period with a jump shot and Danzig followed with a thunderous dunk to give Scranton the lead for good at 65-61. Messiah twice cut the lead to two, the last of which came on a 3-pointer by Trey Ritzman with 56 seconds remaining. Farrell then hit one of two free throws with eight seconds left and Moseley missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer on Messiah’s final possession.

Scranton, which shot only 39 percent in the first half, stayed in contention behind 12 first-half points by Danzig. “I had a lot of adrenaline,” he said. “I was excited to finally have the chance to play on this level.”