The Gannon University men’s basketball team came up on the short end of a 63-58 decision to rival Mercyhurst Saturday night in a physical, exciting to watch matchup at the Hammermill Center.
The loss left Gannon 9-17 overall and 7-12 in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West going into Wednesday’s 7:30 p.m. matchup on the road against Clarion.
Gannon sits in a tie for fifth place in the West with Seton Hill, a game in front of Edinboro with two games remaining in the regular season.
The top six schools will reach the PSAC Tournament, which starts March 4.
Gannon’s matchup with Mercyhurst was not settled until the final moments. The Knights welcomed back leading scorer Daryl Porter after a two-week absence, and he tied the game on two different occasions in the final four minutes of the game.
But Nelson Maxwell’s 3-pointer with 2 minutes, 19 seconds remaining put Mercyhurst up, 59-56, and Gannon never got closer.
The Knights jumped out to an early 8-2 lead courtesy of baskets from Kevin Dodds and Kofi Mills along with a corner three from Victor Olawoye.
However, the Lakers returned fire with scoring efforts on back-to-back possessions.
A layup from Mills put Gannon up 10-7, but again Mercyhurst countered with its own layup along with a 3-pointer to go on top 12-10 about eight minutes into the opening half.
Cold shooting from the Knight offense allowed the Lakers to continue scoring, increasing their lead to 10 points over the next several minutes.
Junior guard Matt Johnson was a catalyst in a late first-half rally by forcing a Laker turnover and converting on the fast-break layup.
He also sank a 3-pointer and pulled down a contested rebound, giving Gannon another possession resulting in an Olawoye three as the clock wound down.
At the halftime buzzer, Gannon trailed by only five points after coming back from a double-digit deficit.
While Gannon couldn’t seem to find the bottom of the net early in the second half, the Lakers came out sharp, tallying eight unanswered points in the opening three minutes.
This run would be halted by back-to-back and-one’s from Johnson and Porter and with both making their free throws, the crowd came alive, seeing that the Knights weren’t done yet.
Now riding the momentum, the Gannon offense began to heat up.
DeAnte Cisero got a quick score coming out of a timeout, followed by a Dodds jumper and a mid-range pull-up from sophomore Sean Colosimo.
The Mercyhurst lead was now only at one point with five minutes remaining, and the Lakers were forced to take a timeout.
After a quick Lakers score out of the timeout, Porter hit a big mid-range jumper and was fouled on the follow-through.
After making his free throw, the score was tied for the first time.
Mercyhurst answered with Maxwell’s huge 3-pointer, taking the wind right out of the Knights’ sails, and the Lakers iced the win with two layups in the final 68 seconds.
Porter scored 16 points to lead the team while Johnson added 11.
With Mercyhurst shooting over 50 percent from both the field and from three, Gannon was fighting an uphill battle only shooting 45 and 33 percent, respectively.
Following Wednesday’s game at Clarion, Gannon will wrap up the regular season Saturday by visiting Slippery Rock for a 3 p.m. matchup.