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The Student News Site of Gannon University since 1947

THE GANNON KNIGHT

The Student News Site of Gannon University since 1947

THE GANNON KNIGHT

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February 23, 2024

Rock edges GU in first round

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Some say it’s hard to beat a team four times in a season.

That statement proved to be true Saturday as the Gannon University men’s basketball team saw its season end with a loss to Slippery Rock, 65-57, in the opening round of the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional at West Liberty, W. Va.

The Knights routed The Rock 71-45 just 11 days earlier at the Hammermill Center in the PSAC quarterfinals, but this time around Slippery Rock had Gannon’s number.

“Slippery Rock, it’s a rivalry,” coach John Reilly said. “We have to give them credit, they definitely deserved to win.”

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The Rock came out firing, scoring nine of the game’s first 13 points just 6 minutes, 16 seconds into the contest.

Gannon responded with six straight points to take a 10-9 lead with 11:48 remaining in the first half.

The PSAC foes struggled to gain control in the opening half, as neither team produced a lead larger than three the rest of the half.

Slippery Rock was able to gain some momentum right before the intermission, as Desma Nicholson drained a 3-pointer with two seconds on the clock to give The Rock a 27-26 advantage.

Slippery Rock built on its first half-ending 3-pointer to jump out to a 39-32 lead 5:08 into the second half.

The Knights couldn’t contain The Rock, as Slippery Rock grew its lead to as big as 58-47 with 6:15 remaining in the game.

Trailing 60-49, Gannon went on a 7-0 run to cut the Slippery Rock led to four at 60-56 with 3:02 left in regulation. The Knights had a chance to pull within two after Jamal Gatali misfired on a 3-point attempt on the ensuing possession.

But Raphell Thomas-Edwards missed a jumper at the other end for Gannon and that was as close the Knights would get, and Slippery Rock held off the Knights for their first win over Gannon since 2013.

When the Knights thought they had some momentum and were going to get over the hump, The Rock pushed right back at them.

“We didn’t want to go out without a fight,” senior A’Darius Porter said. “We felt like we had a grasp and we could claw our way back in, but (Slippery Rock) just started making big shots.”

Senior Adam Blazek, who played his final game in a Gannon jersey, led the Knights with 13 points.

An emotional Blazek said if he had to go out, it would be with this group of teammates.

“I’m really proud of this team – to be a part of Gannon, to be a Knight for four years,” Blazek said. “I’m proud of what I did – where I came from and how I represented my family and Erie.”

Jean Yves Toupane was the only other Knight in double figures, tossing in 10.

Frank Holloway paced Slippery Rock with a game-high 17 points and six rebounds. Gatali added 12, while Nicholson and Antonio Butler chipped in 10 points each.

Slippery Rock advanced to the second round where The Rock fell to Indiana (Pa.) 73-65.

The Crimson Hawks, the only remaining PSAC team in the tournament, will take on No. 1 seed West Liberty in the Atlantic Regional Championship Wednesday.

DOMINIC SANSONE

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