Knights bounce back with wins

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The Gannon University men’s basketball team came into Saturday’s Annual Hall of Fame Game against Pitt-Johnstown looking to avenge last month’s 65-57 loss to the Mountain Cats.

The Knights wasted no time, opening a double-digit lead less than eight minutes into the game and ultimately routing Pitt-Johnstown 66-36 in front of 1,002 fans at the Hammermill Center.

With the win, Gannon improved to 17-8 overall and 16-4 in Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference play. The Knights’ magic number for clinching the PSAC Western Division’s top seed dropped to one with two conference games remaining.

Seniors Raphell Thomas-Edwards and A’Darius Porter started the early Gannon run, combining for 16 of Gannon’s 19 points while hitting 7-of-8 shots.

The clinic continued when Girbran Smith and Matthew Dougan knocked down jumpers to cap a 15-3 run to give the Knights a 23-6 lead with nine minutes, 16 seconds left in the first half.

Gannon slowly built its commanding lead throughout the rest of the afternoon before taking its biggest advantage of the day at 66-34 with 3:09 remaining.

Senior guard Adam Blazek paced the Knights with 16 points and added five assists and four rebounds.

The Knights dominated Pitt-Johnstown in the paint, producing 30 points down low.

“The goal on offense was to get the ball inside,” Blazek said. “We have the best post players in the league.”

Thomas-Edwards recorded his seventh double-double of the season, finishing with 12 points and 11 rebounds, while Porter and Rich Austin added 13 and 11 points, respectively.

Gannon coach John Reilly saluted the play of his post players.

“They’re wonderful people to coach,” he said. “They’re just mentally tough guys.”

The Mountain Cats (12-11, 9-10) were led by Ian Vescovi, who finished with 10 points.

Saturday’s win, combined with Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s 78-77 overtime loss at Edinboro, put Gannon one PSAC victory away from hosting the conference championships.

The Knights conclude the nonconference portion of the schedule Wednesday when the Knights travel to Syracuse, N.Y., to take on LeMoyne College.

Gannon wraps up conference play with a road game Saturday at California University of Pennsylvania before coming home Wednesday for Senior Night against Seton Hill.

The Knights sit alone in first place, one game ahead of rival Mercyhurst, while IUP is 1½ games behind Gannon in third place. Gannon currently holds the advantage in the event of a tie with either the Crimson Hawks  or the Lakers.

On Wednesday, Gannon got a 78-71 win over Clarion at the Waldo S. Tippin Gymnasium.

The Knights led by as many as 11 late in the first half, but saw their lead dwindle to as little as two midway through the second.

A BJ Andrews jumper with 13 minutes, 49 seconds left cut the Gannon lead to 44-42. The Knights responded with an 11-3 run to put the lead back into double digits.

Clarion wouldn’t go away, as the Golden Eagles rallied from 11 down to cut the deficit to four after a Cameron Grumley 3-pointer with 5:42 remaining.

That would be as close as the Golden Eagles would get the rest of the way.

Thomas-Edwards was big down low for the Knights, scoring 18 points and pulling down 10 rebounds, with nine of those boards coming in the first half.

Andrews, who exploded for 30 points — including 5-of-7 from behind the arc — led the way for Clarion.

DOMINIC SANSONE

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