Friday: Bulldogs in, at-large pool fills

Brooklyn celebrates its first CUNYAC title since 1980 and its first trip to the NCAA Tournament ever after beating Staten Island on Friday night.
Photo by Damion Reid

A full weekend of championship action began with a historic celebration for Brooklyn, a nailbiting win for Staten Island and a sixth straight title for Montclair State. Plus upsets in conference tournament semifinals filled up the pool of teams waiting for at-large bids to the NCAA Tournaments.

Brooklyn defeated Staten Island 59-51 to win its first CUNYAC title in 38 years and secure its first ever NCAA Tournament appearance. The Bulldogs seized control with a 10-0 run that gave them a 43-33 lead entering the final quarter. Freshman Chanel Jemmott scored 18 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked two shots on her way to the tournament MVP honors. 

Just outside New York City, Montclair State defeated TCNJ 58-51 for its sixth consecutive NJAC title. All-American Katie Sire notched a double-double (25 points, 11 rebounds) for the Red Hawks who are in good position to host games in the NCAA Tournament as the top team in the most recent NCAA Atlantic Region rankings. TCNJ will likely grab one of the 20 at-large bids when they are announced on Monday.

Haverford halted Muhlenberg's run of Centennial Conference titles by eliminating the Mules from the conference tournament 60-47. Samantha Wetzel and Sierra Berkel combined for 33 points and 21 rebounds and the Fords outrebounded Muhlenberg 43-30. Haverford will play top seed Gettysburg tomorrow after the Bullets dispatched Johns Hopkins 63-55.

Calvin held Hope to five points in the fourth quarter and erased an eight point deficit to force overtime, only to see its arch rival win again, as the Flying Dutch pulled out a 63-58 win in the MIAA semifinals. Hope swept all three meetings with Calvin this season and will play Trine in the conference title game tomorrow. The Thunder cruised past Albion 73-45 in the other semifinal.

Similarly St. Vincent scored the final 13 points in regulation to force overtime in the PAC semifinals against Washington and Jefferson, but the Presidents prevailed 63-62. Amirah Moore's layup with 11 seconds left in overtime was the difference for Washington and Jefferson, which will try to stop PAC juggernaut Thomas More in tomorrow's final. The Saints doubled up Grove City 90-45 as All-American Abby Owings scored 15 points, making her the program's all-time leading scorer.

Wittenberg surprised DePauw 72-68 and made the NCAC a two-bid conference since the Tigers of DePauw are a lock to take an at-large spot. After Wittenberg built a 52-34 lead at the end of three quarters, DePauw rallied all the way back within three points but missed a potential game-tying three pointer with 11 seconds left. Wittenberg, which is the four seed, will play three seed Oberlin for the title since the Yeowomen ousted Kenyon 51-40.

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Kevin McKiernan scored 21 points in Augsburg's 80-69 win over top-seeded St. John's in the MIAC tournament semifinals.
Photo by Ryan Coleman,

The list of teams hoping for at-large bids to the 2018 NCAA Tournament got a lot longer following a string of upsets in the conference tournament semifinals on Friday night.

A pair of upsets in the MIAC tournament busted someone else's bubble elsewhere as the top two seeds in that playoff lost at home. Augsburg jumped out to a 12-2 lead at St. John's and never trailed in an 80-68 win that sends the Johnnies to the at-large pool. The Augies primarily used six players but five of them scored double figures, led by 21 apiece from Collin Olmscheid and Kevin McKiernan. Tyler Weiss had 23 points for St. John's which is a lock to get one of the 21 at-large bids that will be handed out on Monday.

Augsburg will play Bethel in Sunday's MIAC tournament finale since the Royals hammered St. Olaf 79-57, extending their winning streak to seven games. Bethel shot 59 percent (17-for-29) and hit six 3-pointers in the second half. St. Olaf sits on the bubble as the fourth team in Wednesday's NCAA West Region rankings. The Oles will sit behind at least St. John's and the NWC runner-up, and maybe more teams pending the rest of the weekend's results, within its own region.

Johns Hopkins edged Franklin and Marshall in the Centennial Conference semifinal 50-49, thanks to Conner Delaney's steal and layup with 33 seconds to play. Both teams struggled on offense as the Blue Jays and Diplomats combined for 43 turnovers and 25 missed three-pointers. Johns Hopkins will face Swarthmore in the title game tomorrow night, as the Garnet rolled past Ursinus 68-49.

A few days after North Central (Ill.) denied Illinois Wesleyan an outright CCIW regular season crown, the Cardinals prevented the Titans from winning a tournament title, too. Alex Sorenson scored 21 points and pulled down 16 rebounds and North Central beat Illinois Wesleyan 70-64 to advance to the CCIW title game. The Cardinals held the Titans to 19 first-half points and 34 percent shooting in the game. Host Augustana awaits since the Vikings beat Wheaton (Ill.) by a nearly identical score, 72-64.

UW-River Falls was only .500 during the WIAC regular season, but the Falcons look sharp in the conference playoffs. They took down top-seed UW-Platteville 71-66 in the conference semifinals behind 18 points from Alex Herink and 17 from Brennan Witt. River Falls advances to play UW-Stevens Point, which defeated UW-Oshkosh 71-63.

Staten Island can enjoy the rest of the weekend because the Dolphins survived a nail biter finish in the CUNYAC title game, holding off Lehman 77-75. With the game tied at 69, Christian Taylor hit a three and Adeola Latunji made two free throws to stake Staten Island to a five point lead with 55 seconds left. Andrew Utate immediatley answered with a three, pulling Lehman within two and then the Lightening extended the game by forcing the Dolphins to the free throw line. Latunji missed two free throws with seven seconds left and Lehman's Luis Hernandez drew a foul with a chance to tie the game at the line. He made the first but missed the second and Latunji split one of two free throws to seal the victory on Staten Island's final possession.

Latunji finished with 21 points, with 12-for-16 shooting from the free throw line, for Staten Island. Hernandez scored 29 for Lehman.

Ohio Wesleyan's dymanic duo Seth Clark and Nate Axelrod put on a show and the Battling Bishops edged Wooster 88-87 in overtime in the NCAC semifinals. Clark set a new NCAC tournament record with 44 points, including 11-for-18 from three, and Axelrod hit the game-winning shot with five seconds left in the extra period. The game had six ties or lead changes in the final minute of overtime. The loss ends Wooster's streak of nine consecutive appearances in the NCAC tournament title game.

Eastern Mennonite upended ODAC top seed Randolph Macon 56-54 on Maleke Jones' layup with seven seconds left. The win extends the season and coaching career for EMU head coach Kirby Dean who announced he would step down at the end of this season. Randy Lambert won his 700th game in style as his Maryville squad defeated Methodist 70-66 in the USA South Athletic Conference tournament semifinals. Lambert, who is in his 38th season with the Scots, became the seventh coach in NCAA Division III men's basketball history to hit the 700-win milestone. 

Avery Coston canned a three-pointer with one second left and Utica knocked off Stevens 63-62 in the Empire 8 semifinals. Ivan Iton tallied 21 points and 15 rebounds for the Pioneers.