East Stroudsburg heads to first regional final in 24 years with 66-58 victory
EAST STROUDSBURG, Pa. -- Junior guard Whis Grant scored 23 points and East Stroudsburg advanced to the NCAA Division II Atlantic Region final on Tuesday night with a 66-58 win against Gannon on Sunday night at Koehler Fieldhouse.
ESU (30-1) will face three-time regional champion West Liberty on Tuesday at Koehler Fieldhouse.
The Warriors will play for the regional title for the second time in school history, 24 years and one day to their appearance in the East Region final on March 17, 1990, a 72-63 loss to Gannon.
Prior to this season, ESU's only NCAA tournament win was a 99-98 overtime victory against Slippery Rock in 1990. Now, the Warriors are one win from their first NCAA Division II Elite Eight trip.
ESU opened the game on a 15-2 run, then finished the first half with an 11-0 spurt to lead 36-19 at intermission.
Gannon closed the margin to five points, 49-44, with 8:50 remaining before the Warriors responded.
Senior forward Zechariah Runkle, who had seven points and 11 rebounds, had a steal and Grant found junior guard Matt Tobin for a key 3-pointer that put the Warriors ahead eight (52-44) with 7:13 remaining.
Grant hit another jumper the next time down, and ESU answered every time Gannon closed within six. Grant had a key bucket at the end of the shot clock for a 60-52 lead with 1:25 left, and Tobin (2-for-2) and Grant (2-for-2) were perfect from the line late.
Grant pitched ahead for a dunk by freshman forward Rasheed Moore that put the Warriors up 66-56 with 32 seconds left.
Tobin had nine points, four rebounds and four assists in 36 minutes, Moore added eight points and redshirt junior guard Will Brown had seven points off the bench as all five starters played at least 30 minutes.
Grant scored 29 points to lead five double-figure scorers in Saturday's win against Livingstone, along with Moore (18), Brown (16), Tobin (11 points, 11 assists) and sophomore guard Jamal Nwaniemeka (10).
Runkle had double-figure rebounds for the second consecutive game, pulling down a career-high 15 against Livingstone and grabbing 11 of the Warriors' 26 boards against Gannon.
ESU's full-court pressure forced 22 turnovers by Gannon, after creating 27 in a 75-60 win against Gannon on Jan. 3.
A'Darius Porter had 17 points and 10 rebounds, Matthew Dogan scored 13 and Raphell Thomas-Edwards had 12 points and nine rebounds for Gannon (20-10), which beat Charleston 66-64 in the first round on Saturday.
Adam Blazek, the PSAC West Athlete of the Year and a first team Daktronics All-Region selection as a junior, had six points, four assists and five turnovers for the Golden Knights.