KINGS POINT, N.Y. (Jan. 13, 2016) – On Wednesday night, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy men's basketball team picked up a big Landmark Conference victory over nationally-ranked Scranton, 66-65, at the Liebertz Gymnasium. The win improves the Mariners' record to 8-6 (4-4 Landmark), while the #24 Royals fall to 11-4 (4-3 Landmark) in defeat.
USMMA got the game-winner on a last-second free throw by senior Preston Padgett (Leavenworth, Kan.). Seconds before, Scranton had tied the score at 65 on a three-pointer by sophomore Ethan Danzig with eight seconds remaining. The Mariners called a timeout and, after the breather, executed the play that head coach Steve Hayn called, which saw Padgett drive the ball down the lane as time was running out. The senior got fouled with 0.8 seconds to go and made one-of-two for the victory.
Junior Matt Miller (Augusta, Ga.) led all players in the game with 23 points and two other Mariners scored in double-figures, as senior David Smith (Lakewood, Wash.) had 10 points (to go along with a team-high seven rebounds, four assists and three steals) and classmate Scott Dennin (Gilbertsville, Pa.) added 10 points as well.
Junior George Hatzioannides (Oakland Gardens, N.Y.) led the USMMA bench with nine points, while Padgett and sophomore Robbie Kennedy (Spring Lake, N.J.) both contributed six points, apiece. Junior Hunter Jones (Goodyear, Ariz.) rounded out the scoring with two points.
After a slow start that saw Scranton build up a four-point lead in the first five minutes of the game, Merchant Marine flipped a switch and took its first lead of the night, 15-13, at 12:49 on a layup by Hatzioannides. The Mariners exploded out to double-digit lead that reached as high as 18 points, 36-18, at 4:21, which capped off a 23-5 run. However, the Royals finished the first on a 9-0 run to cut their deficit in half, and USMMA went into the locker room with a 36-27 lead.
It was Scranton that came out strongly to start the second half, quickly cutting the Mariner lead down to just three points, 41-38, after a 7-2 run over the first three-plus minutes. USMMA scored the next five points, but the Royals responded with seven straight to make it a one-point game, 46-45, at 10:44.
Play was back-and-forth over the next couple of minutes, but Merchant Marine held on to the lead, despite Scranton's best efforts. That was until the final seconds, when the Royals called a timeout with nine seconds remaining, and Danzig nailed the three right off the in-bound pass to tie the score with eight seconds to play. The Mariners called their final timeout and was able to draw the foul with a fraction of a second left to win it.
Three players scored in double-digits for the Royals, with Danzig leading the way with 20, senior Brendan Boken adding 19 and junior John Vitkus recording 13 points to go along with a team-high seven rebounds and a game-high seven blocks.
Up next, the Mariners will look to continue the momentum off of the huge win into another Landmark contest this Saturday, Jan. 16, against Juniata. Tipoff against the Eagles is set for 2 p.m. at the Liebertz Gym. Live stats and a live video feed of the game will be available by following those links. Prior to Saturday's game, the Mariners will host an Alumni Day game beginning at 11 a.m.
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