March 6, 2009

Courtesy John Carroll Athletics

The final margin may have been 11 points, but John Carroll's 90-79 victory over Medaille College in the first round of the NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Tournament was nowhere near routine Friday evening at the DeCarlo Varsity Center.

The host Blue Streaks tried several times to put some distance between themselves and the Mavericks, only to have the tenacious visitors from Buffalo, New York, chase them down.

It was even early on as the lead traded hands five times in the first three-and-a-half minutes. But after Bill Gersitz gave the Mavericks an 8-7 lead at the 16:25 mark of the opening half, John Carroll responded with an 8-0 run. 

Medaille would cut the lead down to one on two occasions in the first half, at 15-14 and 17-16, but could not overtake the host Blue Streaks. The score was still close at 24-20 with just under nine minutes to play when Matt Crozier sparked a 15-5 run with six straight points to give JCU its largest lead of the half at 39-25 with 3:44 remaining.

A mini run by the mavericks would cut the deficit to 41-31 by the time the contest reached the midway point.

In the second half, Medaille would make a charge at the Blue Streaks, and whittled the JCU lead down to four points at 58-54 on a Ron malicki lay-up with 13:17 left on the clock.

But John Carroll put together a definitive run that seemed to close the door. Starting with a Tyler Kirsch three-pointer at the 13:05 mark and ending with a Corey Shontz jumper with 8:18 remaining, the Blue Streaks went on a scoring tear that saw them push the lead up to its largest of the game at 16 points.A time out called by the Mavericks had JCU ahead at the time, 74-58.

The Blue Streaks still held a lead  double digits with under four minutes to play, but uncharacteristically John Carroll went ice cold, missing five consecutive shots and turning the ball over three times. All the while, Medaille had cut the lead down to 84-79 with 1:49 to play on a  Ricky Reed three-point play.

After yet another JCU miscue, the Mavericks had a golden opportunity to cut the deficit down even further, but a pivotal charge call when against the 1:24 mark. They would score again as JCU scored the final six points to seal the win.

John Carroll (24-4), which won its 20th consecutive game, was led by 19 points and 10 rebounds from Crozier, who was 11-11 from the free throw line in the game. Shontz had 14, Rudy Kirbus tossed in 13, Chris Zajac added 12 and Maurice Haynes chipped in 11 to lead the JCU offense.

Medaille (21-7) received two amazing efforts from Gesitz and Keith Hack. Gersitz was 8-8 from the field and 2-3 from the line with a team-high nine rebounds before fouling out with to play in the contest. Hack was 10-15 from the field and 3-5 from the line for a game-high 23 points.

With the win, John Carroll improves to 8-0 all-time in home NCAA tournament games, and will host Brockport or Carnegie Mellon in the second round of this year's championship.