Knights’ season ends with bitter loss

John Reilly didn’t bother watching the NCAA selection show Sunday night.

The Gannon University men’s basketball coach didn’t need to see a bracket unveiled without his team five days after the Knights’ 62-58 dramatic overtime loss to Slippery Rock University in the PSAC tournament virtually eliminated Gannon from the national tourney picture.

“The last game was a shame,” he said. “My personal opinion was (if we won) not only do we make the (PSAC) final four and have a chance to win the conference tournament, I felt that would put us in the tournament.”

Slippery Rock earned the Atlantic Region’s seventh seed.

Reilly wasn’t alone in his disappointment, as the entire Gannon team was distraught in the locker room at the Hammermill Center after the game, guard Adam Blazek said.

“We were kind of crushed the way the season ended,” said Blazek, who played all 45 minutes.

Blazek missed eight games midway through the regular season with a broken right hand.

Gannon earned the rights to host a PSAC quarterfinal game when it soundly beat Slippery Rock, 75-63, six days earlier at home.

“They really wanted it,” said Reilly, who was named the PSAC Western Division Coach of the Year. “They were excellent in practice for the last couple weeks.”

Reilly said the team’s returning players will begin their offseason training routines in several weeks while the coaching staff continues to recruit on the road.

“For me, it’s the most important part of the year because we’ve got to add to our group,” he said.

Reilly said the team will try to add two guards and two forwards after it will lose six seniors from this season.

Forward Tanner Furno, Gannon’s longest tenured player, said Gannon’s future is bright.

“This season can be looked on as the foundation that we learn from what we need to do so we can play like a team like we have this season,” he said.

As for those returning, Blazek, a sophomore, said he and a handful of teammates plan to stay in Erie over the summer to train for next season.

“I’ve missed the postseason the two years I’ve been here so I’ve got to start to get going to end that,” Blazek said.

The Knights finished the season with a 22-7 record, its best mark since the 2008-09 team won 30 games and reached the Elite Eight.

“Coach told us we were the first real team he had since he had those great teams four or five years ago,” Blazek said.

Furno agrees.

“Out of my four years playing at Gannon, this is my favorite team both in terms of people and friends as well as the way we played basketball and held together throughout,” he said.

 

JOE CUNEO

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