SALEM, Va. — Friday’s first semifinal game was in doubt until the final buzzer. Cabrini was able to survive and advanced to the school’s first NCAA Championship Game. The Cavaliers improved to 31-1 with an 81-78 thrilling win against Illinois Wesleyan.
John Boyd had a career night, scoring a career-high 34 points, including another career-high of 7-12 from beyond the arc.
Jeremy Knowles had a tough night from three, hitting on just one of his four attempts from deep. The one he made proved to be the game winner with 3.5 seconds remaining.
Both teams started the game on fire, and by the middle of the first half the score was tied at 23.
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As the half progressed, it was Cabrini’s outside shooting that gave them the lead. A Fran Rafferty 3-pointer keyed a late 8-1 run that extended Cabrini’s lead to 44-37. Back to back lay ups by A.J. Williams pushed the lead to eight points just two minutes before the break.
The Titans scored the final five points of the half, sending the Cavaliers to the locker room with a 48-45 lead. Illinois Wesleyan’s 14 offensive rebounds and 14 second chance points in the opening 20 minutes.
After another Boyd 3-pointer and a lay-up from Aaron Walton-Moss, the Blue and White lost the touch. During the next eight minutes, the Titans took complete control of the momentum with a 16-4 run to take a 66-57 lead with just under nine minutes to play.
The Titan’s lead remained at nine with seven minutes to play when Cabrini head coach Marcus Kahn used full court pressure start to turn the tide.
Back to back threes from Cory Lemons and Rafferty followed by a Boyd three-point play got the Cavs back into the game.
A Rafferty steal led to two Lemons free throws, tying the game at 72. Lay ups by Knowles and Rafferty gave Cabrini a three-point lead with 2:52 to play before the Titans rallied again. Three quick Illinois Wesleyan points set up the dramatic ending. The score was tied at 76 with just 67 seconds remaining.
After a missed Boyd three, he made a game-changing steal as the Titans tried to move the ball up the court. Boyd found Knowles on the other side of the lane for the lay up giving the Cavs a 78-76.
Illinois Wesleyan tied the game with a jumper. The Titans called a timeout to set up their defense, giving Kahn the chance to diagram a final play.
Walton-Moss brought the ball up. With a quick cross-over, he made a break for the rim.
As the defense converged into the lane Walton-Moss found Knowles deep in the right corner. Knowles buried the three and then the Titans final half court shot fell short.
Rafferty and Lemons finished with 11 points each, while Knowles added seven. Though Lemons shot just 3-12, he handed out a game-high eight assists and grabbed five rebounds.
Walton-Moss posted five points, a game-high eight rebounds, four assists and two steals. Knowles also recorded four steals on the night.
Jordan Zimmer led four Titans (23-8) in double-figure scoring with 19 points, connecting on 5-9 from beyond the arc. Victor Davis added 14 in the loss.