Men's Basketball Playoff Comeback Falls Just Short

Wednesday, February 26, 2014
 

Women’s basketball Men’s lacrosse

The Muhlenberg men’s basketball team nearly pulled off a remarkable comeback, but a tough start and some tough luck conspired to end its season.

The Mules twice cut a 20-point deficit to one in the final two minutes, but the spirited rally fell just short as McDaniel held on for a 57-52 victory in the first round of the Centennial Conference playoffs. Muhlenberg’s campaign came to a close with a 16-10 record, while the Green Terror (18-8) advanced to Friday’s semifinals against host Dickinson. McDaniel’s nail-biting win was its first in the postseason since 1961 and snapped a 12-game playoff losing streak.

James Albano Junior Malique Killing did everything he could to give the Mules a chance, scoring a game-high 23 points and coming within centimeters of bringing them all the way back from a sluggish start. His tough runner with 1:06 to play pulled Muhlenberg to within 53-52, and after McDaniel answered with a bucket, the CC’s leading scorer rose up for a potential tying three-pointer that went halfway down before popping back out. Senior Kevin Hargrove grabbed the rebound and fed classmate Austin Curry, but his attempt at a tying triple bounced away and Muhlenberg was forced to foul with 14.0 seconds to play.

Kevin Hargrove Still, the Mules nearly had another chance. McDaniel twice missed the front end of a one-and-one, but each time grabbed its own rebound and was fouled. On its third chance, the Green Terror, which led wire to wire, finally iced an unexpected thriller with a pair of free throws with 4.5 ticks showing.

Sophomore Alec Stavetski scored all eight of his points in the second half and senior James Albano added seven in his final game for the Mules, who fell victim to an extended shooting slump in the first half. Muhlenberg missed 11 of its first 13 shots against Division III’s eighth-ranked scoring defense, just as the Green Terror were firing on all cylinders. McDaniel scored on seven consecutive possessions during a 20-2 run that opened up a 26-6 lead in the first 12 minutes.

The Mules, however, refused to go down quietly. They closed the period on a 15-6 spurt, capped by five consecutive points from Albano (right), to go into the break down only 11 at 34-23. The margin stayed there until the seven-minute mark of the second half, when Muhlenberg made its move.

The Mules uncorked a 9-0 run over the next five minutes, pulling to within 50-48 with 2:07 remaining. Stavetski, who added five rebounds and team highs of three assists and three steals, buried a triple to start the rally, and Killing capped it with a sensational baseline drive and two free throws. McDaniel stopped the bleeding with a free throw before Killing slashed to the hoop for a layup with 1:48 remaining. A putback by the Green Terror made it 53-50 before Killing finished at the rim again, making it 53-52 and setting off the wild finish.

Hargrove (left) had seven rebounds and five blocks, all of them in the first seven minutes of the second half, in his final collegiate appearance. Already the school’s all-time leader in that category, he finished with 244 rejections, and his two points gave him 989 for his career.

The program’s all-time leader in career three-pointers, Curry made one triple to give him 199. Killing extended his school record for points in a season to 542 and crossed the 1,500-point plateau in moving to seventh on the all-time scoring list.
Click here for box score.
Click here for complete stats.