Top-Seeded Mustangs Fall to Alvernia in Conference Championship Game, 70-69
OWINGS MILLS, Md. - Charles Cooper scored his only points of the game, an off balance 12-foot jumper with 1.5 seconds remaining as second-seeded Alvernia defeated the top-seeded Stevenson men's basketball team 70-69 in the Commonwealth Conference Championship contest Saturday at Owings Mills Gymnasium.
Alvernia (20-7), who won its second-straight Commonwealth Conference championship and third in its four years in the conference, receives the Commonwealth Conference's automatic bid to the 2014 NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Championship.
After trading baskets for the first 13:00 minutes, the Mustangs (19-8) went on an 8-2 run to lead by nine following three made free throws by junior Colby Giacubeno. A three-pointer by sophomore Christian Roberts followed by a fast break layup junior Giacubeno gave Stevenson a 35-23 halftime lead.
A three-pointer by Alfonzo Hawkins with 17:02 remaining in the second half gave the Mustangs their largest lead of the game at 17. However, a 13-4 run by the Crusaders cut their deficit back to single digits with over 13:00 left to play.
Alvernia slowly began cutting its deficit over the next ten minutes and trailed by just one with 3:38 remaining following a three-pointer by Chris Davis.
Back-to-back made free throws by freshman Darius Walker put the Mustangs up seven with 1:05 remaining. Walker finished the game a perfect 7-for-7 from the line with all his attempts coming in the final 5:19 of the contest.
Down the other end, Lamont Clark hit his only three-point field goal attempt of the game to cut Alvernia's deficit to just four. After going 9-for-17 from the line over the first 39:26, Alvernia's Kahlil Bennett made both free throw attempts as the Crusaders trailed by just two.
After a missed free throw by sophomore Erik Fisher, Harrison Deyo was fouled after gathering the defensive rebounding and converted on just one free throw to cut the Crusaders deficit to 69-68 with 23 seconds remaining.
On the ensuing play, Walker was tied up with an Alvernia defender giving possession back to the Crusaders with 19 seconds remaining in regulation which is when Cooper threw up a shot following a timeout called with 4.5 seconds remaining.
With the clock winding down, Cooper made his first basket in just four minutes of play giving Alvernia its first lead since it led 7-6 with 14:04 remaining in the first half.
The Mustangs went 13-for-13 from the free throw line before missing their final three attempts in the final 44 seconds. The Crusaders were just 12-for-21 from the line.
Stevenson, who shot under 40.0 percent for just the seventh time this season, held a 45-32 rebounding advantage while Alvernia scored 17 points off 16 Mustang turnovers.
Walker finished with 21 points and a career-high 15 rebounds while also totaling three assists and one block. Junior Justin Kuntz and Fisher combined to add 23 points on 10-of-22 shooting while also grabbing 10 rebounds.
Commonwealth Conference Player of the Year Brian Parker earned his second-straight Most Valuable Player award after finishing with 21 points and 12 rebounds in tonights game.
The Mustangs will now await selections for the 2014 Division III Men's Basketball Championship which will be announced live on NCAA.com beginning at 12:30 p.m.