The Gannon University men’s basketball team added a pair of big victories to its record over the weekend by capturing the 34th Gary Miller Classic title at the Hammermill Center.
The Knights edged Northern Michigan University, 65-62, in Saturday’s championship game after defeating West Virginia Wesleyan College, 78-59, the night before to advance to the title match.
Two weeks ago, Gannon split two games, falling 52-44 to Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) opponent West Chester on Nov. 18 and obliterating Cheyney University, 80-48, the following day.
The Knights will take an overall mark of 4-2 into a nonconference road game at 7 p.m. Wednesday against Bowie State University.
Gannon’s most intense win over the last two weeks came in the Gary Miller Classic championship match Saturday.
Junior big man Evan Phoenix scored a game-high 24 points and his two mid-range jumpers in the final minute of play helped Gannon edge Northern Michigan, a former rival of the Knights when they were members of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC).
Between the old rivalry and a championship trophy on the line, the stakes were high Saturday, as Gannon hadn’t won a Gary Miller Classic title since 2012.
Phoenix said it felt great to bring the trophy back to Gannon.
“Going into the game we were hungry because we wanted to win at all costs,” Phoenix said. “It was a confidence booster for us because it was the first weekend this year that we went 2-0.”
Saturday’s first half looked more like ping pong as the lead went back and forth between the Knights and Wildcats. There were seven ties and seven lead changes total.
After junior Joe Fustine tied the game at 32-32, Northern Michigan responded with six more points and led at halftime, 38-32.
After the break, Gannon put up seven more points to the Wildcats’ four, making the score 42-39. Gannon took back the lead with a seven-point scoring bonanza.
Phoenix got the ball rolling with an easy jumper. Senior Jair Green took off on a fast-break and drove right for the glass as he put the ball up and in while being fouled.
Green added two more points two cap the scoring run with a score of 46-42 in favor of Gannon with 15 minutes, 31 seconds left in the game.
The Knights added to their lead and owned a 55-48 margin with 8:24 left, but Northern Michigan kicked it into gear and scored eight consecutive points to gain a 56-55 lead.
Green hit a layup to take back the lead, but the Wildcats reclaimed it after scoring four more points to gain a 60-57 lead.
Senior Damon Miraud and Phoenix drained back-to-back jumpers to put Gannon up 61-60 with 57 seconds left but Northern Michigan converted two free throws with 41 seconds to move on top, 62-61.
Phoenix again came up big as he went to the left side of the board and hit a layup with 25 seconds left, making the score 63-62.
As the clock ticked and the Wildcats became desperate they fouled Zay Jackson in the paint. Jackson made both free throws to seal Gannon’s 65-62 victory.
Jackson finished with 18 points while Green added 13.
Jackson’s 17 points led a balanced attack in the win over West Virginia Wesleyan. Phoenix added 16 points, Miraud contributed 12 and Gerrell Williams chipped in with 10.
Phoenix and Miraud each grabbed seven rebounds.
After taking on Bowie State, Gannon will continue its four-game road swing at Shippensburg Saturday and Kutztown Sunday. Both games are scheduled to start at 3 p.m.