PROVIDENCE, RI. – One year ago, the Johnson & Wales University men's basketball team watched the Albertus Magnus College squad celebrate a GNAC championship. Head coach Jamie Benton and the seven seniors on this year's team vowed that would be them in 2016. The 14th-ranked Wildcats fulfilled that promise on Saturday as they defeated the Falcons, 86-75, to win the conference title.
Albertus Magnus 20-6
Johnson & Wales: 26-2
It's the first conference championship for Johnson & Wales since winning the 2011 crown and the third overall. JWU won the GNAC for the first time in 2004. The Wildcats receive the conference's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. The selection show is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. on Monday.
Johnson & Wales appeared to be running away with the game when Quarry Greenaway (Westchester, NY) made a lay-up at the 10:54 mark of the second half to stake the Wildcats to a 68-50 lead. Jarell Lawson (Providence, RI) hit a three-pointer to make it 73-56 with 8:13 to play, but the Wildcats would not score for more than four and a half minutes as the Falcons mounted a comeback.
Albertus Magnus went on a 9-0 run to cut the lead then Shontaey Lovell hit a pair of free throws to cut the margin to 75-67 with 3:17 remaining. The two teams traded possessions before senior Tom Garrick (Seekonk, Mass.) converted a three-point play with 1:47 to play to put JWU up 78-67 and seal the victory.
Garrick led all scorers with a game-high 33 points. He added seven rebounds and four blocks. Right behind him was GNAC Tournament MVP Greenaway as he just missed a double-double with 29 points and nine rebounds to go along with four steals and three blocks. Point guard Anthony Jernigan (East Hartford, Conn.) came close to a triple-double with 10 points, eight rebounds and seven steals.
The teams split the two regular season meetings and were closely matched on Saturday. Johnson & Wales' pressure defense forced 19 turnovers, including 14 steals, which JWU converted into 24 fast break point as well as many trips to the free throw line. The Wildcats shot 20-of-23 from the charity stripe compared to 9-of-10 by Albertus Magnus.
Four Falcons scored in double figures and two had a double-double. Shontaey Lovell had 18 points and 14 rebounds while Jaqhawn Walter added 16 points and a game-high 15 rebounds. AMC out-rebounded Johnson & Wales, 46-24, which it turned into 20 second-chance points. Grant Ellis topped the Falcons with 19 points and Marc Wilson chipped in 15. AMC got 73 of its 76 points from its starters.
Johnson & Wales will find out its first round NCAA Tournament match up on Monday during the selection show. The Wildcat recorded the first NCAA Tournament victory in school history when it upset Ramapo, 114-106, during the 2011 tournament.
GNAC All-Tournament Team
Quarry Greenaway, Johnson & Wales (Tournament MVP)
Tom Garrick, Johnson & Wales
Robert Lewis, Johnson & Wales
Marc Wilson, Albertus Magnus
Jaqhawn Walter, Albertus Magnus
John Clay, Emmanuel
Richard O'Brien, Lasell