WAYNE, N.J. – William Paterson (21-8) had its opportunities down the stretch but couldn't cash in, seeing its upset bid fall short, 77-74, against No. 9 Virginia Wesleyan (25-5) in the second round of the 2015 NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Tournament March 7 at the Recreation Center.
The Marlins advance to the NCAA Tournament Sectional semifinal round and will face the Dickinson/Albertus Magnus winner in the Sweet Sixteen Friday, March 13, at a site to be announced.
WP trailed 43-31 at halftime and 51-40 with 14:26 left, but a layup by sophomore guard Turrell McClendon (Piscataway, N.J./Piscataway Tech) and then a three-point play and a three-pointer by senior guard Sandy Burgos (Fort Lee, N.J./Fort Lee) quickly cut the margin to three (51-48, 13:04). Virginia Wesleyan sophomore guard Khory Moore stopped the run with a pair of free throws 16 seconds later, but junior guard/forward Terik Bridgeman (Harlem, N.Y./Nia Prep) threw down a dunk during the next possession and sophomore guard Zach Frick (Sparta, N.J./Sparta) later nailed a trey from the top of the arc, knotting the score at 53-53 with 11:02 on the clock.
The Marlins put together a mini 5-0 run, and still owned a four-point edge at the 7:47 mark (59-55). Junior forward James McLane (Belleville, N.J./Queen of Peace) then connected on a pair of free throws before a 1-for-2 trip to the stripe by Moore (60-57, 7:16), followed by a fast-break layup and one off a press break by senior guard Jaques Conceicao (Massama-Lisboa, Portugal/Francais Charle Lepierre), forging a 60-60 deadlock at the 7:12 mark.
Moore connected from beyond the arc during the next Virginia Wesleyan possession (63-60, 6:47), and he then forced a turnover on the other end of the floor and was intentionally fouled. He made both free throws, swinging the momentum to the Marlins at 65-60 with 6:27 left.
VWC stretched that advantage to nine, 69-60 with 4:18 to play, but McLane knocked down a three-pointer and Burgos sank a pair of free throws (69-65, 3:04). Breven Lyons' jumper made it 71-65 score 35 seconds later, but junior guard Bright Mensah (Hackensack, N.J./Hackensack) was able to tip in a Pioneer miss, and junior guard Manny Hernandez (Paterson, N.J./Paramus Catholic) came up with a steal and a layup, pulling WP to within two at 71-69 with 1:41 remaining.
Lyons was fouled on the perimeter and went 1-for-2 at the free-throw line (72-69, 1:11) before Burgos was able to sink a jumper from inside the paint with 49.4 seconds left. The Pioneers were then whistled for a foul with 40.4 ticks on the clock and Moore made both free throws to stretch the Virginia Wesleyan lead to three at 74-71.
Burgos launched a three from the left wing and missed with 28 seconds to play, and Lyons made WP pay with two free throws five seconds later for a five-point lead. A missed layup led to another Pioneer foul, and senior forward Cameron Owens made the first attempt from the stripe with 6.4 seconds remaining (77-71). The second shot was wiped out by a VWC lane violation, and Hernandez was able to connect from behind the arc, but with just 0.1 second to play. Coming out of the timeout, the Marlins threw the inbounds pass long but out of bounds down the right sideline, and the Pioneers were able to get the ball back on the baseline without any time expiring. However, the tenth of a second wasn't enough to catch and shoot the potential game-tying shot.
Burgos led the Pioneers with 19 points, Conceicao finished with 14 tallies, Hernandez posted 13 points and McClendon had eight tallies and a team-best eight rebounds.
The Pioneers scored six of the game's first eight points and held a slim 8-7 edge at the 17:05 mark, but five straight points by Moore started an 11-2 Marlin run that made it an 18-10 game with 13:47 to play in the first half.
A three-point play by McClendon capped a 9-2 WP burst and pulled the Pioneers to within one (24-23, 8:42), but Moore answered with five unanswered points, and Virginia Wesleyan's lead was quickly up to double digits at 36-24 with 5:15 on the clock. VWC carried a 43-31 advantage into the break, thanks to a 17-0 edge on second-chance points and 23 tallies off the hot hand of Moore.
Moore accounted for 41 points, including 19 at the free-throw line. Sophomore center Kaelin Poe had a game-best 10 rebounds for the Marlins.