STANDISH, ME – Senior guard Matthew Medeiros (Westport, Mass.), fouled on a buzzer-beater three-point attempt, sank three free throws with 0.3 seconds remaining to lift #2 Saint Joseph's (18-9) past #3 Johnson & Wales University (20-7), 66-64, in an action-packed GNAC Men's Basketball Tournament Semifinal contest at the Alfond Center on Thursday night.
With the victory, Saint Joseph's advances to the GNAC Championship for the third time in the last six seasons and will play at Albertus Magnus College in the title bout at 1:00 PM on Saturday. The top-seeded Falcons cruised past #4 Lasell College, 91-72, in other GNAC semifinal action tonight and look to defend their conference crown for the third-consecutive season this Saturday.
Johnson & Wales, perhaps in the running for an ECAC New England Championship Tournament berth, will learn of their postseason fate at some point on Monday.
The Monks trailed by as many as nine points in the first half, as the visiting-Wildcats went 5-12 from three-point range while controlling the pace of play in the opening frame. Saint Joseph's cut the deficit down to 34-32 at the break and tied the game on three occasions during the second stanza, but did not take a lead until Medeiros hit his second of three freebies with three-tenths of a second on the game clock.
The Monks opened the game with five straight points off a Medeiros three and a Jordan Tripp (Queens, N.Y.) layup, but the Wildcats roared back with a 10-3 run and owned their first advantage of the night when sophomore guard Quarry Greenaway (Westchester, N.Y.) converted a layup with 14:02 remaining in the first half.
The score stood at a 17-17 stalemate after Tripp hit on another layup at the 8:45 mark, but Johnson & Wales mustered a 9-2 run off trifectas from Matt Barboza (Riverside, R.I.), Robert Lewis (Baltimore, Md.) and Curtis Lucas (Providence, R.I.) to assume a 26-19 cushion with 6:29 before the break.
Trailing by nine (33-24) four minutes later, the Monks scored seven straight – courtesy of a Nicholas Jobin (Westbrook, Maine) old-fashioned three-point play, a Tripp layup and a Medeiros trey – to make it a two-point game heading into the locker room.
The entire second half was at worst a two-possession proposition for Saint Joseph's, as Johnson & Wales held at least a share of the lead for all but the closing second but was unable to break the game open.
Tripp kicked off the second stanza with a layup to knot the game at 34-apiece, but the Wildcats continued to stay one step ahead and claimed a 38-34 lead just over a minute later after Esaie Touza (Providence, R.I.) and Greenaway scored layups. The Monks would not enjoy a share of the lead until the closing seconds.
Down by five (58-53) after Greenaway made a layup with 3:55 left, the Monks fought back into contention when Medeiros went to the line and made a pair of freebies 27 seconds later and Jobin made a bucket off a Steve Simonds (Steep Falls, Maine) pass to make it a 58-57 game with 1:42 left.
Attempting to run time off the clock, Johnson & Wales scored twice on Greenaway and Lucas field goals over the following 1:12 to extend the cushion to 62-57 with just 30 seconds remaining. Medeiros made a huge three-pointer off a Jobin dish 12 seconds later and Tripp tapped in a layup after collecting an errant in-bounds pass to tie the contest at 62-62 with five seconds on the clock.
On the ensuing JWU possession, Lucas was fouled at midcourt and drained both attempts to put his team back on top by a pair. After a timeout, Saint Joseph's in-bounded the ball to Jerome Diggs (Washington, D.C.), who went coast to coast and was fouled on a layup attempt. With three seconds remaining, the sophomore guard made the first freebie attempt and missed the second, but senior forward James Philbrook (Auburn, Maine) pulled down the offensive rebound and quickly fed the ball to Medeiros, who was fouled while in the act of shooting a three-pointer.
For the Monks, Medeiros netted a game-high 24 points with five rebounds, Jobin added 10 points, four rebounds and three assists, Tripp contributed 10 points, five assists, four rebounds and four steals, and Simonds chipped in with 10 points and three caroms in the victory.
Lucas paced the Wildcats with 20 points and grabbed three steals, Greenaway netted 17 and Touze added seven points and six rebounds in the losing effort.
With the victory, Saint Joseph's improves to 9-6 in the history of the series with Johnson & Wales University.
Saint Joseph's College is Maine's only Catholic liberal arts college, providing a supportive, personalized and career-focused education for more than 100 years. From its 430-acre campus on the shores of Sebago Lake, the College offers more than 40 undergraduate programs to a population of approximately 1,000 students. Saint Joseph's College Online provides certificates, undergraduate and advanced degrees for working adults through an online learning program. For more, visit www.sjcme.edu.