Photo courtesy of One More Shot Photography (Tom Weishaar)
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - Behind a game-high 29 points from senior Mike McCahey (Clarkstown, N.Y.) and a full stat sheet of 16 points, nine rebounds, five assists, and a block from freshman Tim Guers (Langhorne, Pa.), the Saint Anselm College men's basketball team advanced to the NCAA Division II Regional Final with a 77-73 win over Saint Thomas Aquinas College on Saturday night.
McCahey added seven rebounds and a block, while Harrison Taggart (Wallingford, Vt.) battled foul trouble but came away with 15 points and five assists. Victor Joshua (New Haven, Conn.) chipped in eight points, four rebounds, five assists, a steal, and two blocks. Chris Braley (Newport, Maine) grabbed eight rebounds and had a pair of steals.
Saint Thomas Aquinas was led by 27 points, six rebounds, and three assists from Chaz Watler. Jonathan Lawton had 15 points and four rebounds, while Shaquille McFarlan joined them in double figures with 10 points. Jules de Courtenay corralled a team-high nine rebounds to go with seven points.
It will be an all Northeast-10 Conference Regional final as Saint Anselm will meet Stonehill College in Tuesday night's 7:00 p.m. Championship game. The Skyhawks defeated Southern New Hampshire, 75-74, in overtime in the other East Regional Semifinal on Sunday night. The winner will advance to the Elite Eight on March 23-26 in Frisco, Texas.
Victor Joshua knocked down a three to tie the game at 5-5 early and after a basket from Chaz Watler, the Hawks cut through the Spartans' full-court press leading to a layup for Harrison Taggart that knotted it at 7-7 with 15:55 to play. Mike McCahey knocked down back-to-back triples to extend the lead to 15-9, and Taggart buried a corner three to make it an 18-12 game.
A three-point play from Watler pulled the Spartans back to within three at 18-15, and Saint Thomas Aquinas tied the score at 20-20 when Shaquille McFarlan scored on a put-back layup. The Spartans eventually took the lead at the 9:44 mark when James Mitchell got a three to fall that put STAC on top 23-22. Watler gave the Spartans their largest lead of the half with a transition elbow jumper that made it a 25-22 game.
Guers answered with a deep three to tie the game at 25-all, and Chris Braley kept it a tie game at 27-27 with a score inside and 5:55 to play. A 4-0 personal run by McCahey put the Hawks in front 31-29, and a Taggart reverse layup capped a 9-4 run by the Hawks that gave them a 36-33 lead. Taggart knocked down another three to give the Hawks a 41-35 advantage, but STAC ended the half on a 5-0 run – including a layup from Aaron Cust as time expired – to make it a 41-40 game headed into the break.
The Spartans scored the first five points of the second half to make it a 10-0 run and take a 45-41 lead in the opening minutes of the second half. Guers sandwiched three-point plays around a Daniel Wilson tip-in, and McCahey later tied the game at 49-all with a score inside. McCahey answered a Watler triple with a three-point play of his own, and his three at the 13:38 mark gave the Hawks a 55-53 lead.
Jonathan Lawton connected on a three on the next STAC possession to put the Spartans back on top, but Guers found a cutting Victor Joshua for an easy two to keep the Hawks in front, 57-56. Jules de Courtenay recorded a personal 5-1 run for the Spartans to put STAC in front 61-58 with 9:15 remaining in the second half.
Victor Joshua scored inside to make it a one point game, but Watler was fouled on a layup and converted the three-point play to give Saint Thomas Aquinas a 64-60 lead at the eight minute media timeout.
Out of the break, head coach Keith Dickson went to his bench and a small-ball lineup of Joshua, McCahey, Guers, Cody Ball (Londonderry, N.H.), and Taylor Fortin (Tolland, Conn.). The change in personnel worked as the Hawks raced out to an 8-2 run on a pair of McCahey threes and a Ball layup to take a 68-66 lead with 5:27 to play.
The game turned into a free throw contest for the Hawks as Guers, McCahey, and Joshua combined to go 6-for-8 at the charity stripe, with Joshua giving Saint Anselm a 74-69 lead with a freebie at the 1:50 mark. Watler rolled in a layup on the ensuing STAC possession to make it a one possession game, and after a stop by the Spartans, Watler scored on the fast break to cut the deficit to only 74-73 and 38 seconds remaining.
The Hawks grinded the clock down and eventually Guers drove from the top of the key and drew a foul with only 10 seconds remaining. The freshman calmly knocked down the pair to give the Hawks a 76-73 lead. Watler, yesterday's hero for STAC as he banked in the game-winner as time expired against Southern Connecticut, raced up the floor and got a look at a three, but Joshua got a hand up and forced a miss. Guers grabbed the rebound and was immediately fouled with 2.7 seconds remaining.
Guers missed the front end, but hit the second to make it a 77-73 game and seal a trip to the Sweet 16 for the Hawks.
Saint Anselm shot 45.3% (24-of-53) from the floor and knocked down 10-of-29 (34.5%) of their triples, while hitting 19-of-27 (70.4%) of their free throws. The Hawks had 20 assists on 24 field goals in the victory.
Saint Thomas Aquinas was 25-of-59 (42.4%) from the floor, connecting on 36.8% (7-of-19) of their threes and 16-of-21 (76.2%) of their free throws. The Spartans won the rebounding battle, 36-32, and also committed only 11 turnovers to 13 for the Hawks.
Tickets for Tuesday's Regional Final game are $10 for adults and $5 for seniors, children, and students with ID. Links for live stats and video will be posted on SaintAnselmHawks.com when they are made available.