Wins give Knights PSAC hope

The Gannon University basketball team could get used to this.

After finding themselves on the wrong end of so many nail-biting finishes and second-half rallies, the Knights turned the tables by rallying to defeat Clarion and Edinboro universities on the road last week.

“It feels good, finally pulling out the wins,” junior guard Oscar Macias said. “We’re excited to start getting on a roll.”

Coach John T. Reilly said the Knights might be starting to learn what it takes to win close games.

“It’s like a class, where everything’s cumulative,” Reilly said. “So I’d like to believe that we’ve learned from past experiences.”

Gannon, which holds an overall record of 12-10 and 10-8 in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, faces a tough test, however, when it returns home to face crosstown rival Mercyhurst College Wednesday.

The Knights will look to carry over the momentum they found Wednesday night at Edinboro, when they rallied from a 12-point halftime deficit to force overtime, where they downed the Scots 77-73.

Freshman point guard Adam Blazek erupted in both games, eclipsing career highs in points with 26 and 37 points, respectively.

The Knights also benefited from a season-high output from senior forward Shameel Carty, whom Reilly said was the key difference for the Knights. Carty spent his last three years with Clarion, making his performance even sweeter.

“I definitely felt my team behind me, and that’s when my confidence started to go up,” said Carty, who scored all 15 of his points in the second half. “It did feel good to beat my old team, but I didn’t really think about that stuff while I was playing.”

Gannon remains virtually two games behind California University of Pennsylvania in the PSAC West division for the fourth and final spot in the conference’s postseason tournament. The Vulcans ( maintain the lead thanks to a season sweep.

While Reilly said he won’t be watching any out-of-town scoreboards, the Knights realize the importance of each game.

“It’s really just business as usual,” he said. “If you asked everyone on the team, to a man, they’d say they want to make the (tournament), which is great. But that just goes back to our mentality that we play to win every game.”

The playoff implications render Wednesday’s game with Mercyhurst University (14-10, 11-7) even more significant, as the Knights will try to avenge a 62-61 loss to the Lakers on the road on Jan. 18. The contest saw 14 lead changes and neither team take a lead larger than six.

Gannon is preparing for another challenge from the Lakers, who run a variety of offensive and defensive formations.

“We have to keep preparation as simple as possible because they run so many different sets at you,” Reilly said.

The Knights will follow with a game against Lock Haven University (0-21, 0-18) 3 p.m. Saturday at the Hammermill Center.

Saturday’s game will be part of the fifth annual “Pink Zone” program benefitting breast cancer research as well as survivors. The event has averaged a crowd of 2,500 in each of the past four years.

Reilly noted the fan involvement in the Knights’ road resurgence last week, as a high number of students and spectators made the trips.

“(Fans) can go one of two ways. They can either criticize players and coaches, or they can support them and cheer them on,” he said. “It’s amazing what positivity can do for a team. And there’s certainly a human element with young people that they can feed off positive reinforcement.”


[email protected]