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Muhlenberg College

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

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men’s basketball moves on to semis

When the season is on the line and a basketball team is having trouble getting things to work, sometimes a lucky break is all it takes to get back on track. And then there’s what happened to Muhlenberg in its Centennial Conference first-round game against Haverford.

With about two minutes remaining and the score
Spencer Liddic
Liddic scored 12 of his 14 points – and 12 of the Mules’ 28 points – in the second half in his first career postseason game.
tied at 50-50, Mule senior Chris MacIntosh got hit in a sensitive area. When he ran into the locker room to, um, get re-oriented, he was replaced on the floor by classmate Mike Bernardini.

On Bernardini’s only possession, he grabbed an offensive rebound and was fouled, then hit two free throws with 1:24 left to provide the winning points in Muhlenberg’s 52-50 victory.

The win sends the Mules (16-10) into the CC semifinals, where they will face top-seeded Franklin & Marshall in Lancaster on Saturday.

It was not surprising that two teams that are nationally ranked in defensive categories played such a low-scoring game. The squads combined to shoot 31.4 percent, and in fact Muhlenberg won despite closing the game with a drought of more than 14 minutes without a made field goal.

The Mules led, 41-36, after sophomore Evan Tozer hit a three-pointer
Mike Bernardini
Bernardini, who scored five points in the last home game of his career, hit the clinching free throws in the Mules’ last win against Haverford.
with 14:27 left, then missed their final 13 shots from the field. They made up for it at the line, however, going 11-of-12.

Haverford (12-13) had its biggest lead of the game, 50-46 with 3:59 to go before finishing with its own scoring drought. After two free throws by junior Brian Frankoski, Tozer stole a Ford pass and fed freshman Spencer Liddic in transition. Liddic was fouled and made both free throws for two of his game-high 14 points, tying the score with 3:29 to play.

The teams traded possessions until fate, in its own special way, intervened and Bernardini hit his two go-ahead free throws. Muhlenberg dug in at the defensive end, forcing Haverford into two off-balance shots that did not come close on its last two possessions.

The Mules led by as many as 12 points, 20-8, in the first half, but the Fords closed the half on a 9-0 run to draw even at 24-24. Muhlenberg made only two field goals in the last 8:56 of the first half.

“We practiced a lot against their zone this week. It went a lot better in practice than it did tonight,” said Tozer. “They’re really scrappy.”

Liddic pulled down 8 rebounds to go along with his 14 points, and Frankoski scored 11 points. Junior Ryan Foster added 8 points and 8 rebounds.

The win was the first for the Mules in a playoff game since 2001, and their first home playoff win since 1998. It also was their sixth this season in a game decided by four or fewer points.

“We probably would have liked to have an easier game,” said Tozer. “But playing in a game like this gets us ready for this weekend.”
Click here for box score.
Click here for complete stats.

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