Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A D2licious Comeback by C.W. Post

I was in Brookville New York last night as #1 seed C.W. Post took on #2 seed Bentley for the championship of the Division II Eastern Regional. Post had beaten Philadelphia University and Assumption in their first two games. Bentley defeated Bridgeport then Merrimack in double overtime to reach the final.

At the start of the game, Bentley looked like they were going to shoot Post out of their own gym as they went out to a 12-2 lead on the strength of two three pointers. The Pioneers would whittle the lead down to 23-17 as Post drove inside for layups, their strong suit. But Mike Quinn and Jason Westrol buried a couple of threes and a John Brandt layup made the game 31-17. Post would only cut the lead by one entering the half as they trailed 37-24.

Figuring Post would need to cut into the lead immediately to make it a game, Bentley came out and scored five quick points on a Westrol three and a Brian Tracey layup to give the Falcons their biggest lead 42-24.

The Pioneers were looking at an 18 point second half deficit and the possibility that their magical undefeated season would end on their home court. The gym was relatively quiet and the crowd pensive, worried that they might be seeing the end. Bentley had hit 15 of their first 27 shots and were 9 of 14 from beyond the arc. Post was only shooting 30 percent from the field (9 of 30) which included being 2 of 13 from beyond the arc. Things didn't look good for the Pioneers.

But staring at the biggest adversity they faced all season, Coach Tim Cluess's team didn't waver. They roared back into the game. It started with a Kevin Burkes three. Then Nick Carter and Burkes trading baskets back and forth. Meanwhile the Post D started forcing several Falcons' turnovers. Carter and Burkes continued to hit shots. Once what was an 18 point Bentley lead was now only five, 50-45 with 13:05 left.

Then came what I thought was the critical point in the game. Earlier on in the second half, there was a play where one of the Bentley players turned turned the ball over. Well the Falcons Lew Finnegan went over to the ref to dispute the call, got very upset and kind of showed up the ref. This was right by where we were sitting. Sitting next to me was my good friend Dr. J, as I call him. Well the usually quiet Dr J started yelling at the ref very loudly that "21" was showing him up and that the ref was a disappointment for allowing that to happen. It was certainly quiet enough for the ref to hear him. There was a purpose to this.

Well, you had the setup. Here's where it gets spiked home. There was a loose ball and the Pioneers' Roberto Macklin got the ball and called timeout. During the scrum as Macklin called timeout, Finnegan pushed Macklin. The ref that got showed up by Finnegan called a technical foul on him for unsportsmanlike conduct . Four free throws later and the lead was cut to one.

Finnegan who had nine points at the time was taken out of the game. As he headed to the bench he was still visibly upset. His coaches tried to calm him down. But you could see he was mentally done. Later on in the game, Finnegan pushed over a chair during a timeout. Finnegan did not score the rest of the game after the technical foul. Give an assist to Dr J.

The place, which you can see above was quite full, was now rocking. Loudest I have heard a gym since Hofstra beat Mason in Mack Arena back in February 2006. The game now stood at 50-49 Bentley with 12:42 left. Post would take their first lead of the game at 53-52 with 11:37 left on a layup by Macklin, who is one hell of a leaper. He finished several alley oop passes on the night. It was clearly evident by this time that Post decided to play its five guard lineup and wore down Bentley with their athleticism in the second half. The Falcons could not stop the dribble drive penetration of the Pioneers which resulted in many easy layups for Post.

Bentley and Post would go back and forth for the next seven minutes with both teams taking the lead back. Jason Westrol would hit a three for Bentley to tie the game at 66 with 4:27 left.
Post would take the lead for good on a jumper by eventual Tournament MVP Nick Carter 68-66 with 4:07 left. Layups from Macklin and Carter put Post up six, 72-66 with 1:44 left. Bentley would get as close as two, 75-73, but Post would score six straight points on free throws and that was the ball game.

Needless to say the loud jubilant fans from Post, stormed the court. Burkes scored all 23 of his points in the second half as Post scored 58 second half points to storm back and win. Tournament MVP Carter added 21, while Schmidt, the all time leading scorer in Post history added 12 and Macklin had 11. For Bentley, Jason Westrol was unreal. He led all scorers with 28 points on 10 of 16 shooting, including 7 of 8 from beyond the arc. His corner three was unstoppable. Brian Tracey had 19 and Mike Quinn added 14 for the Falcons who were held to 5 of 14 shooting from three in the second half.

Can't say this enough. The place really started rocking when Post made their 25-8 run in the second half. This is what I have been saying about live college basketball. There is nothing better than a packed gym/arena with an important game on the line. Like I said, I hadn't heard an gym this loud since Hofstra beat Mason (though Davidson coming back against Georgetown in Raleigh was pretty close). To be there with my friends Bob Sugar and Dr. J made it even more special. Again, there is nothing like LIVE tournament college basketball. Simply the best!

Post now will play in the Elite Eight starting on March 25. Best of luck to the Pioneers.

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