HAMBURG, N.Y. – For the fifth consecutive season, the Hilbert Hawks men's basketball team will be competing in the AMCC semi-final game after beating Pitt-Bradford 99-88 in the first round of tournament play this evening.
Trevor Stark led the Hawks' offensive attack with 37 points on 12-14 shooting (4-6 from beyond the arc, 9-10 from the free throw line), which moved him up two places to 6th on the all-time scoring list. He also was credited with eight assists and four steals.
Tonight's victory was Hilbert's twentieth of the season and marks the third straight 20+ win season for the men's basketball program.The Hawks tenacious defensive pressure and outstanding shooting were too much for the Panthers from Bradford.
Along with Stark, Jerame Owens and Sean Weisansal found their way to double-digit scoring, with 26 and 17, respectively. Owens was 8-12 from the floor and 9-10 from the line and he also added three assists, three steals, and five caroms. Weisensal shot a stifling 12 for 12 from the free throw line and pulled down a team-high six rebounds. Ryan Bradtrecorded a perfect shooting night, finishing with nine points on 4 of 4 shooting from the floor and 1 for 1 from the line in 13 minutes of action.
The Panthers were led by Keith Burgess' 32 points, which included 10-11 from the charity stripe. Eric Matheson notched 22 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and three steals. Zach Smith was the only other Panther to reach double-digit scoring, as he finished with 12 points, seven boards, three assists, and three steals.
Hilbert stepped up their defensive pressure right off the tip. The Hawks forced three Panther turnovers within the first four minutes of play and jumped out to an 11-4 lead before the visitors knocked down their first three pointer of the game. Bradford kept the spread close but Hilbert was able to respond with long hits. Three consecutive 3-pointers by Owens, Weisansal and Stark kept the Panthers at an arm's length.
Aggressive defense created transition scores in the paint and helped the Hawks build a double-figure lead with 5:27 remaining. Hilbert went on a 10-3 run and held their largest lead 43-38 at 3:55. But it was Trevor Stark's steal that lead toJerame Owens' dunk with one second on the clock that set the tone heading into halftime.
Hilbert sank 66.7 percent of their shots from the floor, were 9 of 10 at the charity stripe and were 5 of 9 from beyond the arc. Their defense forced nine first half turnovers which lead to 16 points, 10 points secured off a fast break situation.
Stark led all scorers with 14 points and had earned five assists and three steals in 16 minutes of play. Jerame Owenschipped in 13 points and Ryan Bradt came off the bench to produce seven points.
Stark took the Hawks on his back and controlled the offensive pace in the second half. His lay-up with 16:49 gave the Hawks the 15 point advantage but the Panthers continued to fight, bringing the game within six points with 12:04 remaining. Stark went on a scoring spree, scoring 13 of Hilbert's next 15 points.
Bradford extended their defensive pressure looking for steals or forced turnovers. They were able to make it a five-point game at the 7:25 mark and it looked as though they were going to keep it close. Stark, however, had other plans and continued to score, recording seven straight points for the Hawks to bring the lead back to 10.
Weisensal connected on 8 of 8 free throws in the last two minutes to prevent a Bradford comeback and to lead Hilbert to the 99-88 victory.
Both teams shot extremely well on the night. From the free throw line, Hilbert went 34-41 (82.9%) and Bradford hit 20 of 24 (83.3%). Hilbert was 56.9% from the floor, including 43.8% from long-range. The Panthers were 32-64 from the floor but only 26.7% from beyond the arc. With both teams shooting so well there were not many rebounds to go around, but the Panthers did outrebound the Hawks 29-28.
The Hawks (20-6) made their way to the semi-finals by winning a first round game four times in five years. In 2012-13 the Hawks earned the league's #1 seed and hosted the championship weekend. For the second year in a row, Penn State Behrend finished the regular season in first place and will host the semi-finals and championship game this weekend.
Last year the Hawks beat Medaille College 80-77 in the semis and they look to win again in this round, but this time against the host team at 6pm this Friday, February 27th.