Gannon wins Gary Miller Classic

Home cooking never tasted so good for the Gannon University men than on this Thanksgiving weekend.

After dishing out turkey, potatoes and stuffing at the Sisters of St. Joseph’s annual community Thanksgiving dinner Thursday, the Knights feasted on turnovers in blowout wins over Roberts Wesleyan and Daemen colleges in the 29th annual Gary Miller Classic.

With a pair of easy wins and the tournament trophy in hand for the first time in two years, the Knights ran their record on the young season to 4-0 as they enter Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference play. It’s the first time Gannon started 4-0 since 2008-09 — the same year it reached the Elite Eight.

“It’s very important. Most importantly confidence-wise,” coach John Reilly said. “Last year we were a very poor road team; we were actually better on the road, so the intensity and energy that I saw were very important.”

Sophomore point guard Adam Blazek earned the tournament’s most outstanding player honors after leading the Knights’ swarming defense by grabbing three steals in both Friday’s 66-45 win over Roberts Wesleyan and five more in Saturday’s 65-46 win over Daemen in the championship.

“I’ve watched a lot of films, and our defensive rotations have been great,” said Blazek, who also led Gannon with 15 points Friday and chipped in 13 more Saturday. “Right now, our defense is much better than it was last year.”

Gannon got even with defending champion Daemen, which started a string of near-misses for the Knights a season ago when it bested the Knights 67-65 in the opening round.

The Knights were willing to sacrifice their bodies by making hustle plays throughout both games.

They routinely frustrated the Wildcats (8-3), who came into the game averaging nearly 90 points a game but shot just 33 percent from the field Saturday. The Knights also limited Roberts Wesleyan to just 28 percent shooting to hold their opponents to less than 50 points in consecutive games for the first time since 1992.

But the Knights also committed 29 turnovers of their own, a number they cut to 19 on Saturday.

“Pretty much 95 percent of those turnovers were unforced,” Blazek said. “I think we need to shoot better from the outside because that will open up the driving lanes.”

In four games so far this season, Gannon has had two different starting lineups that feature three players who did not play for the Knights last season. A total of 10 players scored in each of Gannon’s wins this weekend and currently have six players averaging five or more points.

“The depth is excellent,” Reilly said. The most important thing is that we have eight returning guys. We’ve improved ourselves there and the new guys are also contributing.”

The Knights also received welcome news when All-State recruit Matt Dogan, of West Middlesex High School, and New Castle’s Brandon Domenick signed a letter of intent to play for the Knights earlier in November.

Dogan, whom Reilly called “smart” and “athletic,” has nearly 1,500 career points for West Middlesex entering his senior season.

He is the third District 10 standout to sign with Gannon in the last three years. Blazek made the short trip from Cathedral Prep a year ago and North East High School product Cory Bailey is in his freshman season.

“I’ve always liked local players because there are some advantages,” Reilly said. “A lot of times with local players, they’re well-coached and are smart. We also try to get them here so that their families can come and watch games.”

Gannon will host to East Stroudsburg and Kutztown universities in PSAC games this weekend. For the second season, crossover games between the East and West conferences will count toward conference records.

 

JOE CUNEO

[email protected]