ERIE, PA -- The La Roche men's basketball team took a big step on their path to the AMCC Regular Season Title after beating Penn State Behrend 61-56 on Wednesday night. The victory is their twelfth straight and creates a two game cushion atop the conference standings. The Redhawks will host the AMCC Tournament if they win 2 of their next 3 games.
The AMCC Game of the Week was a game of matchups, and the Redhawks held the edge.
Behrend tied it at 19-19 with 5:49 left before the Redhawks broke it open. Arnes Bajgora swung momentum with a three-point play and La Roche followed with a 14-0 run. The Redhawks were phenomenal over the four minute stretch. They limited the Lions to just three field goal attempts while scoring on all but one possession.
Behrend finally got on the board with 22 seconds left in the half, but the Redhawks entered halftime with a 33-21 lead. The statline was relatively even between the teams, but La Roche hit three more three-pointers and went a perfect 7 for 7 from the free throw line. Trell Thomas had 10 first half points and Bajgora had 9 points.
Behrend cut the deficit to six by the 16:13 mark of the second half. The Redhawks responded with an 11-2 run for a commanding 50-35 lead. La Roche made it tough on the Behrend offense and limited them to just three field goal attempts. The Redhawks were extremely efficient, scoring 10 of 11 points on layups. Darius Lawrence got the Redhawks out of their seats with a big "and-1" play.
La Roche stretched their lead to as many as seventeen points in the second half. Behrend chipped away at the lead and cut it to single-digits with 3:49 left. The Lions switched from man-to-man defense to a zone, stalling the La Roche offense. Behrend tried to string the game out by putting the Redhawks at the foul line, but La Roche converted enough free throws to earn the five point win.
Behrend hit more field goals and free throws but La Roche was significantly better from the free throw line. Bajgora led the Redhawks with 15 points and Thomas had 14 points. La Roche's guards were a force on the boards with Thomas and Zach Gould pulling down 6 rebounds each. RayQuan Phifer dished out 4 assists.
The Redhawks can clinch a first-round bye with a victory on Saturday at Penn State Altoona. They can clinch a share of the AMCC Regular season title with a win and Penn State Behrend loss.