Scranton edges past Middlebury
Royals advance to first NCAA quarterfinal game since 1998
MIDDLEBURY, Vt. -- Junior guard Travis Farrell buried a 3-pointer from the left perimeter in front of his own bench to cap off a 17-point performance to lift Scranton past Middlebury 58-55.
“I saw (Matt) Swaback in front of me and thought he was going to go to the corner and he stopped,” said Farrell on his game-winning play. “And (then) I saw how much time was left and just chucked it up and it went in.”
“We practice that situation and generally the kids know just to get it and push it,” said Royal head coach Carl Danzig. “We don’t want to call a timeout and let the other team set up. I saw Travis get a clean look and figured we go into OT if he missed.”
The Royals built up a 5-point lead with 2:20 remaining before the Panthers answered with a traditional 3-point play by Kizel with 44 seconds left. Scranton took the clock down to 20 seconds and, after a timeout, Morgan missed a layup, setting a wild finish.
Kizel rebounded Morgan’s missed and drove the length of the court to tie it with six seconds remaining. Farrell then advanced the basketball down the left sideline in front of the Royal bench and lofted the winning shot as the final buzzer sounded.
Freshman guard Ross Danzig added 14 points and sophomore guard Tommy Morgan had nine points and 10 rebounds for Scranton, which won its sixth consecutive and 11th in its last 12 games to improve to 23-7 overall. It sets up a rematch with 5th-ranked Cabrini College (29-1) Saturday evening.
Cabrini, which defeated Eastern Connecticut earlier tonight 72-65, downed Scranton, 71-68, on December 17 in Radnor, Pennsylvania.
Sophomore guard Joey Kizel led Middlebury with 21 points and senior forward and All-America candidate Ryan Sharry finished with 13 points, despite being saddled with four fouls. Sharry entered the game averaging nearly 20 points and 10 rebounds, but he was clearly not the same player having gotten into early foul trouble.
“We were happy that we were able to neutralize Sharry,” said Danzig, who picked up career win number 203. “He only got off six shots, and we figured that if we could cut his average in half and keep everyone around their average, we would have a chance to win.”
After a sluggish first half in which the Royals shot only 38 percent in opening up a two-point halftime lead, Scranton adjusted its game plan and kept the high-scoring Panthers off-balance throughout much of the second half.
The Royals ran their offense to perfection and took advantage of Farrell and Morgan’s athleticism down low to post up and score over the Panther guards. Farrell scored twice in the opening two minutes of the second half and Morgan threw down a dunk off a steal as Scranton opened up a 31-25 lead with 16:54 left.
Scranton also held its composure after the Panthers clawed back and took two one-point leads, the last of which came with 13:10 remaining. Senior Dan Hilferty then drilled a 3-pointer from the left baseline and Danzig followed with a 3-pointer as Scranton opened up another 5-point lead with 11:51 left.
Kizel was brilliant for Middlebury down the stretch, scoring the Panthers final nine points. Trailing 51-46 with 4:11 left, he stripped Farrell of the ball at half-court and scored on an uncontested lay-up, then hit another lay-up with 2:04 left to once again make it a one-possession game, 53-50. He drew the fifth foul on Royal senior guard Luke Hawk and converted a 3-point play with 44 seconds left before scoring the Panthers’ final points with another driving lay-up with six seconds left.
The Royals, who shot 52 percent from the field in the second half, got a big lift from senior forward Nick Jaskula, who played 11 minutes due to Hawk being in foul trouble and responded with six points. Hawk finished with nine points in 25 minutes of action.