PITTSBURGH, PA – The La Roche College Redhawks are AMCC Champions! The Redhawks held on for a 77-74 victory over arch-rival Penn State Behrend, to win their third conference championship and a spot in this year's NCAA Tournament. NCAA Tournament brackets are released tomorrow.
La Roche and Behrend had one of their classic battles with both teams fighting for an edge early. Trell Thomas got the crowd on their feet with an and-1 in the first minute. RayQuan Phifer and Zach Gould followed with baskets as the teams entered the fifteen minute mark tied at 8-8.
The Lions climbed ahead 19-13 with 11:25 left, but the Redhawks netted points on three straight possessions. Thomas found Ryan Norkus on a back door screen and Darius Lawrence converted three free throws. Gould drained a three fora 21-19 lead with 9:44 remaining in the half.
La Roche's offense stalled, but they forced Behrend to be patient with strong defense. The Redhawks woke up from their funk and got red hot over the final two minutes. Thomas and Gould sunk threes and each made a pair of free throws. Dion Etheridge hit a putback at the buzzer for a 39-35 halftime lead.
Gould scored 16 first half points and hit 4 of 5 three pointers. Thomas dished out 4 assists and Etheridge pulled down four boards.
Gould's hot shooting continued into the second half. He drained his fifth three-pointer of the game but Behrend answered with three threes and a 44-42 lead at 15:25.
Phifer answered with a layup and-1. Both teams battled with the lead changing hands three times in two minutes.
Gould tied it at 49-49 and Coach Carmichael immediately called a timeout to set his defense. The Redhawks held strong and Behrend turned it over as the shot clock hit zero. Norkus put the home squad up a bucket with a layup.
La Roche stopped Behrend on straight possessions. Thomas and Norkus took advantage with a jumper and layup for a 53-49 lead and 11:47 left.
Behrend called a timeout at 10:38 after Thomas hit a runner to go up six. The Lions drained a three out of the timeout. They had a wide-open three to tie it, but the Redhawks made a stop and Bajgora swung two points in their favor.
La Roche built a seven point lead, but it was cut to just one with 4:18 left to play.
Gould came up big on the other end, nailing a hand in the face, fade away jumper and 66-62 lead. Phifer followed with free throws with 3:12 left.
Behrend's Andy Niland cut it to three. Phifer then hit an up and under with and expiring shot clock to go back up five.
The Lions' Justin Gorny hit a three with 1:22 left. Phifer and Thomas followed with baskets and the Redhawks went up three.
Behrend cut it back to three, but Etheridge and Austin Hannes put it away with free throws. Etheridge celebrated the moment by tossing the ball in the air as the game clock hit zero.
Gould was nearly unstoppable and was rewarded with a spot on the All-Tournament Team. He finished with 26 points and hit 6 of 7 three-pointers. Thomas was clutch all tournament and earned a spot on the all-tournament team. He followed his 20 point semifinal with 15 points and 6 rebounds in the championship.
Phifer had 13 points and Etheridge pulled down 8 rebounds. The Redhawks were extremely efficient, shooting 54% and hitting 7 of 17 three-pointers.
Behrend's Niland had 22 points and 10 assists in the losing effort.
The champion Redhawks earn the AMCC's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. La Roche will discover where and who they are playing when brackets are released tomorrow.