PITTSBURGH, Pa. – The La Roche College men's basketball team (14-11, 10-8) secured a spot in the AMCC Tournament by defeating Hilbert College (19-6, 13-5) 74-72 after a huge second half performance on Senior Day.
Hilbert's offense caught fire in the early going as the Hawks surged ahead of La Roche. The Redhawks hit the boards and clawed back into the game, trailing 21-18 midway through the first half. The teams exchanged buckets before back-to-back threes from Jalen Smith pushed Hilbert's lead to 37-27. Lionel Perkins hit a running three at the buzzer to send the Redhawks into the break on the wrong side of a 32-39 deficit.
The visiting Hawks shot 49% in the opening frame and assisted on an impressive 15 of 18 made baskets.
Hilbert pushed the lead to 46-35 with 16:30 remaining in the game before La Roche made a furious comeback. Neal McKown hammered home an alley-oop from Perkins to send the crowd into a frenzy and bring the Redhawks within 55-51. Andre Flanigan followed with consecutive reverse lay ups to knot the game at 55-55 with 10:26 left to play.
Unfazed, the visiting Hawks responded with a 6-0 run to retake the lead 61-55. La Roche answered right back with another alley-oop to McKown to ignite a late Redhawks rally.
David Jackson skied for an offensive put-back before capitalizing on an and-one to put La Roche ahead 62-61 for the first time since a 3-2 lead in the opening minute of the game. Hilbert regained the lead on a contested three, but Perkins fired back with a three of his own to put La Roche back ahead 69-68.
With the Redhawks fighting for their playoff lives, the back-and-forth affair resulted in a heart-wrenching 11 lead changes in the final two minutes of regulation.
Hilbert pushed itself into the lead 72-71 with less than a minute remaining before Daron Tabron secured a loose ball and scored on a put-back to give La Roche a 72-71 lead with 48 seconds remaining. A Tabron steal and free throw on the ensuing Hawks' possession put the Redhawks ahead 74-72.
La Roche's intensity on defense forced a Hilbert turnover with 2.5 seconds left, but the Hawks stole the ensuing inbounds pass to set up a potential desperation toss with 1.1 seconds remaining.
The Redhawks held strong and prevented any shot attempt to record the massive 74-72 victory.
Jackson recorded a monstrous double-double, leading all scorers with 21 points and adding a game-high 13 rebounds. Flanigan scored 13 points and tallied six assists, while Perkins poured in 13 points of his own to go along with four assists and four three pointers. Tabron added 12 points and McKown chipped in 11 points.
Jalen Smith led the visiting Hawks with 19 points. Trevor Stark added 12 points and seven assists, while Nick Nadeau scored 13 points.
The Redhawks forced nine turnovers on their way to outscoring the Hawks 42-33 in the second half and out-rebounded Hilbert 39-29 for the game.
With the win, La Roche improves to 10-8 in the AMCC and secures a five-seed in the AMCC Tournament. The loss drops Hilbert to 13-5 in the AMCC and into the third-seed.
The Redhawks return to action Tuesday, February 25 at #4 Pitt-Bradford to start the AMCC Tournament.