I'm not going to say much about Gannon's 94-62 annihilation of Malone in the opening round of the Porreco Cup because we'll have plenty of time to talk after the championship game vs. Seton Hill. Also I don't want to jinx the Knights by gushing about them only to watch them lay an egg in the finals.
So I used the headline of this post to gush. The Knights are a combination of those four attributes: Athletic, Scrappy, Unselfish, AND Relentless. Talented teams usually don't get the dirty work done or don't need to be hard workers. The underdogs are usually the ones diving on the floor and sharing the ball in order to maximize their talent. But the Knights showed against Malone they can do all four.
Adam Blazek was a perfect example of this. He led all scorers with 21 points on 10-of-16 shooting and topped all defenders with 9 steals. His play of the night might have been saving a ball on the sidelines, falling into the Pioneer bench, zipping back onto the floor, immediately picking off a pass, and then going the distance for a layup. Blazek also triggered one of the prettiest fastbreaks in Gannon history. After receiving an outlet from Dmitry Martynenko, he fired a one-handed pass from the opposite foul line to Stephen Battle on the left wing. Battle dropped a quick bounce pass in the lane to Darrell Blanton who sent a touch pass to Oscar Macias on the right block for a layup. (You can watch the play in here on YourErie.com. Kudos to my main man Craig Smylie for solid camerawork.) In 6 seconds, all 5 Knights touched the ball and converted a defensive rebound into a layup.
* I overheard a bizarre conversation at the game. One referee walked over to Malone coach Tim Walker and asked, "Is there anybody on the white team you want me to watch because he (John Reilly) wants me to watch number 32." I've never seen that happen before.
* Tanner Furno and Brandon Belt combined for 31 points off the bench. Furno looked comfortable rolling down the lane rather than posting up against heavier defenders. And Belt looked even more relaxed spotting up for 5 threes. When that kid has time to set his feet, he's almost automatic.
* Gannon has scored 90 or more points in 3 consecutive games and 4 of their last 5. Last year they topped 90 points once in 26 contests. The 2008-09 team which advanced to the Elite 8 scored 90 points just 3 times in 34 games, and they did it against dregs Lock Haven, Urbana, and Daemen.
* It will be fun to watch if Gannon is able to defend two-time Porreco Cup MVP Chris Giles in tonight's championship. Malone was a good matchup for Gannon because they weren't quick penetrators. Giles is one of the best slashers in small college basketball.