WASHINGTON - Gallaudet University had led for nearly 33 minutes against Morrisville State College in the semifinal round of the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) men's basketball tournament here Saturday before things unraveled.
The Bison lead quickly vanished as the Mustangs raced past the top-seed before a boisterous crowd of 674 in the Field House. A six-point lead was erased and turned into a four-point Morrisville State advantage in a matter of minutes.
GU's final field goal came at the 2:12 mark and after that the Bison made four crucial turnovers and missed a 3-pointer, in the waning seconds, as the visiting Mustangs celebrated a 72-68 victory.
Gallaudet's conference championship drought, which dates back to 1943, will go on for another year.
The Bison complete the most successful season in program history with a 20-6 record. GU set program records for wins in a season (20), conference wins (18), four all-conference selections while also ranking among the top in Division III in many different statistical categories.
Morrisville State (21-6) advances to Sunday's NEAC championship game where it will face Lancaster Bible College (14-13), who defeated Cazenovia College 67-53 in the other semifinal. The championship game will tip at 2 p.m. in the Field House. The winner will receive an automatic bid into the 2017 NCAA Division III men's basketball tournament.
The Mustangs took advantage of Gallaudet's miscues as the visitors turned 25 Bison turnovers into 26 points. Morrisville held an edge in the transition game with 15 fast-break points and 22 bench points while both teams were even in the paint with 30 points.
Gallaudet was led by junior forward Andy Cruz (Bronx, N.Y.), who scored a game-high 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to go with three assists, two blocks and two steals. Cruz contributed to the Mustang advantage in points off turnovers and was one of three Bison in foul trouble.
Senior center Joshua McGriff (Somerset, N.J.) tallied 11 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three blocks in 26 minutes of action. McGriff fouled out with 2:21 left in regulation as he was held scoreless in the second half and the final six minutes of the first half.
The Bison got 12 points from its bench led by senior Shawn Harrington (Frederick, Md.), who scored five points and grabbed five rebounds.
GU got off to a strong start as it scored the first four points and built up an eight-point lead, 20-12, midway through the opening half. The Bison never got the lead to double digits in the game. Gallaudet took a 40-35 lead into halftime.
Morrisville State was led offensively by NEAC Rookie of the Year Kevin Dennis, who scored 17 points, five rebounds, four steals, two blocks and two assists. Trent Ward matched Dennis with 17 points and five steals in the win.
- Gallaudet is now 0-3 all-time in the NEAC semifinal round (2010-11, 2015-16, 2016-17)
- The Bison are 2-5 in the NEAC tournament since it joined the conference in 2010-11
- Gallaudet is 1-2 at home in the NEAC tournament
- GU is 5-7 all-time against Morrisville St.
- Gallaudet is 2-7 in the past nine meetings against Morrisville St.
- The Bison are 1-2 vs. Morrisville St. in the NEAC tournament, GU won 80-69 in the quarterfinals in 2011
Lancaster Bible College defeated Cazenovia College in the second semifinal behind a strong performance by Quentin Davis off the bench as he scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Guard Herbie Brown netted 14 points and made four steals in the win. The Chargers (14-13) led 29-25 over the Wildcats (10-17) at the half. Three different Wildcats scored in double figures led by Will Thompson's double-double (13 points, 12 rebounds).
BISON SENIOR CLASS
This marks the final game for Gallaudet's senior class. McGriff was a four-year letterwinner for the Bison where he earned three All-NEAC honors, including two first team honors. He finished his career with 1,356 career points, which ranks 10th all-time in Gallaudet history, in 96 games played (69 starts). McGriff grabbed 792 rebounds and was one of the most prolific shot blockers in Bison history with 247 career blocks. McGriff is ranked third in Division III for blocked shots this season (88). Nelson was a three-time all-conference honoree for the Bison where he accumulated 954 career points, 292 assists, 276 rebounds, 134 steals and 26 blocks in 69 games (56 starts). Harrington played the last two seasons where he scored 294 points and grabbed 212 rebounds in 49 games played.
This concludes the season for Gallaudet. The Bison will lose three seniors but will return two all-conference players in Cruz and Valencia along with a strong supporting cast.