Washington, DC - In a physical battle the USMMA men's basketball team put #11 Catholic to the test but ultimately fell, 65,-57, Wednesday night in the Landmark Conference semifinals. Reed Buck (Lawrenceville, GA) poured in a game high 26 points while Nick Sergio (Patchogue, NY) tallied eight points and ten rebounds. The Mariners were in the game until the final minutes but were unable to knock off the top-seeded Cardinals.
Merchant Marine (14-12) started the game on a high note as Buck drilled a trifecta for the game's first points. However, the Cardinals found their stride and after an alley-oop layup from Chris Kearney the score was 14-7, CUA, forcing the Mariners to call for a timeout. USMMA battled its way back into the game and a Scott Dennin (Gilbertsville, PA) basket on the inside cut the deficit to 18-14 at the 12:19 mark.
Catholic (23-3) grabbed its largest lead of the first half as Steve Limberiou hit a three-pointer to make it a 25-16 game. It was Bryson Fonville who paced the Cardinals attack throughout the game, registering 21 points. The Mariners refused to go away and began chipping away at the Cardinals advantage. Buck hit a tough runner in the lane on a fast break to bring the Mariners within four at 28-24.
George Hatzioannides (Oakland Gardens, NY) took his turn hitting a jumper in traffic to move it to a one possession game, 30-28, with 1:21 to go in the period. The bucket proved to be the final points of the opening half as the Cardinals clung to to a two point edge entering the intermission. USMMA shot just 33 percent (10-30) from the field in the first half but made up that ground on defense. The Mariners racked up five steals and three blocks while committing just five turnovers in the first 20 minutes of action.
The Cardinals jumped out of the gates in the second half to push their lead to 40-30 before a Buck triple stopped the early run. The junior forward then put the Mariners on his back to score the team's first 12 points of the second half, including a three-point play that made it 43-40 with 14:28 on the clock. The Cardinals found themselves in the bonus early int he second half and took advantage with four consecutive free throws to extend their narrow advantage to 49-43.
Sergio capped another USMMA charge as the junior forward hit a turn-around hook in the lane at the 5:15 mark to close what had been a 12-point Catholic lead into a 56-50 affair. As the two teams entered the final stretch the Cardinals held a 61-54 advantage with 2:03 remaining in regulation.
Catholic chewed up clock on their next two possessions while Buck hit a three-pointer with 36.7 ticks remaining, cloing the gap to 62-57. After a Mariner foul, Catholic hit one-of-two at the charity stripe but USMMA came up empty on a trifecta on its next trip up the floor. In the end the Cardinals held of Merchant Marine's upset bid and earned a spot int he Landmark Conferece title game against Juniata with a 65-57 victory.