The 17th ranked University of Mary Washington men's basketball team used a late 12-2 run to defeat Christopher Newport University, 65-48, in the 2014 Capital Athletic Conference Championship on Saturday at the Anderson Center. The Eagles clinch a bid to the 2014 NCAA Division III Championship tournament, and claim their second CAC crown.
"I feel like this is something that was meant to be", said senior guard Bradley Riester afterwards. "This is the hardest working team I've ever seen. This was for all the guys on the team, the guys who have been here, and our coaches."
It was CNU who came out strong early, scoring the game's first six points, and the Captains held a slim lead for the next 10 minutes of play. A John Yoxthimer jumper with 10:36 remaining tied the score at 11-11, and after the teams traded baskets, UMW used a Bradley Riester three pointer, a Marcellus Holley layup, and a Dajon Daniel jumper to take a seven point lead at 20-13 with 5:28 remaining in the first half.
UMW pushed the lead to nine at 24-15, with 2:49 left in the half, but the Captains answered with eight straight points to cut the score to 24-21, but Dom Morra hit a three pointer at the buzzer to give UMW a 27-21 advantage at the break.
The Eagles opened the second half with a 10-4 spurt to take the lead to 11 at 38-27 with 16:59 left. Again, the Captains answered with a run, whittling the lead to three at 45-42 with 9:37 to play, but senior Marcellus Holley hit back-to-back three pointers to send the lead to nine at 51-42 with 7:49 on the clock.
A Riester three with 5:33 left moved UMW's lead to 54-44, and an ensuing three from Taylor Johnson made the Eagle advantage 57-44 with 4:09 on the clock. The Eagles made six straight free throws down the stretch for the 17-point victory.
"This is a testament to our seniors", said head coach Rod Wood after the game. "All of our starters had played in a championship game here before, so they've been through it. CNU is a great team, and we knew they would make runs, as great teams do, but our guys stepped up each time and held the lead."
"These guys play hard and to their potential nearly every second, and that is gratifying for a coach to see."
The Eagles shot a torrid 57.9% from the field in the game (22-38), making 11-23 three pointers, and went 10-16 from the free throw line. CNU shot 40.9% (18-44) making 4-23 three pointers, and was 8-13 from the line. The Eagles led in rebounds, 28-20.
Riester led all scorers with 14 points on 5-7 shooting, including 4-5 three pointers. Taylor Johnson scored 11 points and added seven rebounds, and Dylan Farinet scored 11 and grabbed six rebounds. Morra added 10 points for UMW. CNU was led by Tim Daly and Mike Cherry, who each scored 10 points.
Mary Washington will advance to the NCAA Tournament for the second time, with first round beginning Friday night. The selections for the NCAA Championship and bracket will be announced Monday at 12:30 p.m.