Monday, March 18, 2013

Atlantic Region Champs! #1 Gannon 50, #7 Cal 47

I'm sure this wasn't how Cleve Wright and the Lady Knights drew it up, but they are going to the Elite 8 after winning the Atlantic Region championship tonight over California (Pa.), 50-47. Gannon survived a shooting chart of 15-for-53 (28%) and 2-of-13 on threes (15%) plus a trio of Cal three-point attempts as time wound down to secure their trip to San Antonio.

As gut-wrenching as the game felt to the Gannon team and fans -- my brother texted me the word "exhale" soon after the game ended -- this should be a confidence-builder for the Lady Knights. They didn't play their optimal game in the Sweet 16 but still advanced. Every team that wins a championship has a game like this. Monday night I watched the ESPN "30 For 30" documentary "Survive And Advance" about the 1983 NC State national championship men's team, and they played at least a half dozen games in which they were left for dead. Gannon survived and advanced, earning their berth in San Antonio.

The Lady Knights next opponent is a familiar one. Ashland (34-1) is a former GLIAC foe who defeated Gannon back on Nov. 10 at the Disney Classic, 70-59. The Eagles held off Wayne State tonight, 72-63, to capture the Midwest Region. They were #2 in the final regular season Division II USA Today top 25 coaches poll while the Lady Knights were #7.

For the next week or so, forget about the phrase "Don't Mess With Texas." We're replacing it with the Gannon Hoops motto: We Believe In Cleve! BIG THANKS to the Gannon fan who made this sign for tonight's game. I wonder if we can get Gannon to change its motto from "Believe In The Possibilities" to "We Believe In Cleve!" until the end of Gannon's run this year.


  1. Hope everybody gets out tonight to Rock the Mill.
    Good Luck Lady Knights!!!

  2. Certainly hope Jenny Thies is ok. She has really become a valuable member of the team. We need to get butts outta the huts and meat in the seat so lets fill the Mill.

  3. Just a few more hours … I’m the bozo who said that no way could Cal win three games in the regional. They’ve gotten a few breaks with injuries / other, but they play has exceeded my expectations. Should be a tough game tonight.

    Go Knights!

  4. Wow ... no comments yet. I still think that we're collectively catching our breath after that one.

    I don't know where to begin. Everyone looked tense going into tonight. The team played tense. The coaching was tense. That can happen when you feel like you're overwhelming favorites, but know deep down that this will be a tough game.

    It took the entire first half and a good portion of the second half before the play loosened up. The Batts 3 and Glass' 3 point play seemed to turn the tide. The defense kept us in the game in the first half stiffened even more and we turned our defense into offense.

    And just when you think it's over, Cal comes back with one final desperate push (and GU made a couple of their possessions far too easy) with two threes and actually had three attempts to tie.


    1. Glass' steal & layup+one to tie the game at 27 (with 8:47 to go in the 2nd (!!!!)) I think was THE pivotal moment in the game. It was the first time GU had had it tied since it was 9-9 (with 8:42 to go, interestingly enough). That's 20 minutes GU played down. The play sparked as 12-0 run that completely swung the momentum in GU's favor for really the first time in the game - the emotion that emanated was palable to every single person in the gym, including the sullen faces on Cal's face. Those next 9 points? All from Nettie Blake, who was playing in the game with what, 3 injuries? Hand, knee and I think hammy.

      Wow. That game was won by a calm coach leading his team, and players just leaving it all out on the court in the second half. So freaking awesome.

  5. Gannon was far from the only team to survive a barnburner.

    Dowling shocked Bentley 53-51 on a rebound lay-up with three seconds to go.

    6 seeded Augustana (SD) beat 8 seed Emporia State 75-74 with a two FT's with one second to go, off a rebounded miss.

    Colorado Mesa's four point win went down to the final couple of seconds.

    1. One of Gannon's assistants graduated from Bentley. I'm sure she was looking forward to potentially seeing people. I'm kinda glad Gannon doesn't have Emporia State in the tourney - sour memories here.

      March Madness is awesome (esp. when you're on the right end).

  6. I think I have finally recovered from having about 5 heart attacks during the game. The defense kept GU at least in the game heading into the 2nd half, and the offense did JUST enough to win the Atlantic Regional. Cal never quit out there, I swear that I have never seen a team who would not quit fighting like Cal did. Was a great game, just so happy that Gannon was able to survive and advance

  7. Hate to bring this up, but the game had sloggy flavor of the Gannon at Mercyhurst men's game.

    Not a big surprise ... when two good team play each other four times, they get to know each other pretty well. Some strange parallels:

    Gannon scored 13 points in the first half (just like the men's second half against the Hurst)

    When Jen Papich made the first of two free throws with 46 seconds left, the score was Gannon 44, Cal 36 -- the same score of the Hurst debacle last month. Papich made the second FT to seemingly cement the game with a nine-point lead when Cal made their frantic comeback, scoring 11 points in the final 46 seconds.

    Gannon has 21 wins over Ashland in its women's basketball history. We've beaten only three teams more: Slippery Rock (27) Clarion (29) and Mercyhurst (53). Let's send the Eagles back to the Kates Gymnasium with their 22nd loss against Gannon!

  8. Great win, I should never 2nd guess a win, but I thought GU made it to close.
    When Cal was making a run in the last 30sec, I thought why didn't GU foul Cal (GU had 2 to give B4
    going to 2FTs) That would have ate the clock when they fouled us and we were in the 2FT. Instead Cal came and hit two 3s and almost the last to tie it.
    Just a thought.

  9. There has never been a better example of "Survive and Advance" as was witnessed tonight at the Audi. The Lady Knights literally had nothing on offense tonight, with their only notable accomplishment at that end of the court being that small streak singlehandedly authored by Blake that was the turning point in the game that was more pure muscle than anything else.

    A great win that we should all be very proud of. The Lady Knights did what they needed to do and got the W, despite playing as tentatively as they have in two years.

    However, I stand by my assertion before the tournament that they aren't playing all that well, particularly offensively. Tonight, they struggled to even run their offense. Some of the credit for that should go to Cal's stifling defense, but the players seemed to be having problems with basic basketball skills like accurately passing, successfully catching and effectively dribbling the ball. Let's not talk about the shooting. Obviously, these are skills we know they have, so the conclusion we must arrive at is that these issues arose from the mental, not the physical part of the game. It was pretty disturbing to me that this could happen to a team whose players have the extensive big game and playoff experience that this one has accumulated over the past 2 seasons. Makes one wonder.

    Now that the win is secured and we all have resumed nornal breathing, I couldn't help but theorize as to what we'd be reading on this blog about the coaching if GU's Men's team had been limited to 13 points in a half in a playoff game at home by a team with just 8 players, one that they had already beaten twice, having once scored 87 points on them in the process. Good illustration of the difference in expectations for the 2 programs among us GU fans.

  10. Congratulations Lady Knights! Good Luck in San Antonio. Let's beat Ashland!!!!

  11. And congrats to former GU coach Jerry Slocum for guiding Youngstown State to its first Division I postseason tournament. YSU earned a berth in the invitational, a home game vs. former GLIAC member Oakland. In this press conference, you can see that Slocum is already prepared for the Grizzlies.

  12. Way to go Ladies!!....Also, congrats to YSU as well!!....What a brutal climb from the depths of Division 1 to win 17 games this year in a purdy darn good basketball league!!

    This is like a Super Bowl for Coach Slocum and his staff. Win or lose, nobody will out prepare them!! (I think they win!!)


    Another set of good comments from Observor. Experts would indeed have had a field day weighing in with commentary under the scenario outlined above!

    Go Ladies!!

  13. Good post by Obeservor … I’ve thought about this as well.

    I agree that this GU women’s team is not as gifted offensively as Cleve’s past teams, especially in half-court game. But this team plays by far the best defense of any Cleve Wright team, and uses its depth to wear the opposition down and takes control of the game from about the 12 to 8 minute mark of the second half. Every game of the regional fit that model, albeit in different ways. The March 5 Cal game was similar as well.

    Your second point … yes, the reaction would have been far different if the men would have put up 13 points in a half. The mood at the Hammermill last night wsa more of surprise that the women could score just 13 points in a half. They’ve come to expect these offensive catastrophes from the men.

    I think that Cleve has built up a lot of good will with the fans. A 170-48 record over the past seven seasons will do that for you. Fans will give him the benefit of the doubt. Plus, he runs his program in a manner that most fans like: he has four year players (has he ever had a transfer? I can’t remember one, but I could be wrong). He is predictable in substitutions and use of depth. And he plays an up-tempo style that fans like. Bad games / bad seasons / bad decisions cause a coach to spend goodwill (like the below average 2010-11 season), but the team’s back to an elite level. Cleve has built up so much goodwill that it will take a pretty bad series of seasons to spend it all to the point that fans become frustrated with him.

    On the other hand, Coach Reilly started off poorly (05-06 & 06-07), but then built up goodwill with two fantastic seasons (07-08 & 08-09). (Example – I don’t remember fans being all up in arms because the defense collapsed in the 2009 Elite 8) But he spent it all and then some in the next three sub-par seasons. Plus, the constant revolving door of players from 2009 to 2012 and the unpredictable game management has frustrated most fans to the point that they will no longer give him the benefit of the doubt, even in a good season like this past one. When the men have a bad game, or even a bad half, the fans feel like it’s more of the same and are less tolerant; when the women’s team had a bad half, it felt more like an aberration.

  14. I believe that the above Believe in Cleve sign was not just made from a normal "fan" but by former assistant coach and awesome former GU Point Guard Tiffany Crocker, who was in attendence last night among others.

  15. Golden, I agree with your goodwill theory regarding Cleve, but I'm not sure Reilly ever did or ever will build up enough goodwill to overcome the amount of bad feelings amongst the GU faithful dating back to his second year during the "bringing in freshmen" experimental season. When you add in the factors you mentioned, plus the fact that Reilly's philosophy (defense being the only truly primary emphasis, with all other parts of the game, including substitution patterns and end-game strategies, being secondary at best) are so unorthodox and unusual that the typical GU "expert" fan would likely still not warm up to him even if he won a national championship. Certainly, it will never happen under the current conditions.

    Was looking for something else on the Millersville website and discovered that Brandon Belt played the first 17 games this season (starting 16), then never played another minute. Anybody know what happened? Injury? Did he just quit again?

    1. Reilly certainly did create a few skeptics even after the Elite 8 year of '09, particulary since his first two seasons ranked among the all-time worst in GU basketball.

      But after 2009, many skeptics were willing to wait and see ... two bad seasons and two good seasons. Unfortunately, the next three seasons were poor by GU standards and, as you say, he may never win them back. Maybe if he strings together another couple of 20-plus-win seasons in 2013-14 and 2014-15, some of them will come back to his side.

      Coaches that do out-of-the-ordinary things HAVE to win. If Herb Magee was a .500 coach, everyone would probably blame his sweatsuit. But since he's been winning for four decades, nobody cares how he dresses.

  16. First PSAC West loss to a non-PSAC west team, men or women this year. IUP had the game tied at 48 with 14 minutes to go when WLU hit six straight threes and never looked back.

  17. Funny how the PSAC West can have such an amazing weekend and then be completely eliminated before you go to bed Tuesday.

  18. Erie County men's & women's college basketball coaches that have sent teams to the NCAA Elite 8:

    2: Tom Chapman, Cleve Wright
    1: Bob Dukiet, John Reilly, Ed Sparling, Stan Swank, Jim Webb

    1. I believe that Cleve has a VERY good chance of moving up to 3 next year. Shouldn't get ahead of myself, we still got game(s) left this season :)

    2. One Elite Eight appearance at a time. :-)

      Seriously, given the way things are now, on paper, we probably look like the favorite to repeat as region champs going into 2013-14. But sooooo much can happen between now and then ... there's too much to list.

      You have to do a lot of things right to win your region, and some things outside your control have to break your way as well. Let's enjoy this one while it's happening because you never know when you will be back.

  19. @TheObservor
    No I did not quit "again". I injured my knee around the 11th game of the season but tried to continue to play. After a couple games it continued to affect my play so I decided to see a doctor. It was then I found out I had a sprained MCL and torn meniscus in which I had to have surgery on to get fixed.

  20. Jerry Slocum and Youngstown State won their first round postseason game over Oakland (Mich.) Tuesday night, 99-87. The postgame press conference is vintage post-victory Slocum. Watch it here:

  21. Brandon-

    Glad to see you're still keeping an eye on things at good ol' GU. Even though we missed having you around this season, I hope that the move worked out for you and you're happier living closer to your hometown.

    Thanks for the update on your playing status. Kinda wish that the Millerville SID office would've divulged that sort of news so that everyone that is following your career could see what happened (If they did, I apologize, but I couldn't find it anywhere).

    Glad to hear that you stopped playing rather than try to play through a serious injury like that. Very smart move for both your basketball future and your life after hoops. I hope you are able to rehab it and get back to playing soon.

    I was aware that you didn't "quit" at Gannon, but rather left because you felt uncomfortable being so far from home. The "quit again" comment was intended not as a comment on you but rather intended as a ploy to see if the Reilly-haters on this blog would start speculating again about player defections. Its a popular topic this time of year, but I hadn't heard any new rumors on the subject for awhile now.

    Good luck, and hope to see your name back in the box scores again next season.

  22. Nice to check in, Brandon!!....Wow, you indeed had a nice shooting touch!!....Good luck on re-hab!!....


    "Just win".....Mentioned many times before, can we REALLY criticize to the Nth degree a coaching staff that just won 22 games??

    I think some fans simply have a general bias against fantastic defense, versus up-tempo point-a-minute basketball.

    I think behind-the-scenes, things are taking place for another 21-22 win season, at the minimum, next year, from the men's side.

    If so, it will be comical to see the absence of criticism, like this past season, after big wins. The coaching "experts" always point fingers and have all the answers after a tough loss.....all 7 of them this past season. The fact is, in my opinion, the men's teams have been only really blasted twice in the past 2 years: AT IUP to end the season 2 years ago, and, the first half of the Slippery Rock game this past season.

    Fire the coaching staff, right??
    In the meantime, let's enjoy this fantastic run by Cleve and the Gang!!

  23. We're goin down. EV, 2 others and myself.
    EXpect a 'ship comin' home.

  24. Just announced:

    ERIE, Pa. – Gannon's Darrell Blanton (Cleveland, Ohio/Euclid) has been named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Division II Men's Basketball All-Atlantic Region second team.

    Blanton was previously named to the All-Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Western Division first team for the second consecutive season. The redshirt senior averaged 15.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 0.9 steal per game. He recorded four double-doubles this season, giving him 13 during his two-year career at Gannon. Blanton reached double digits in scoring 23 times this season, hitting the 20-point plateau six times.

    The Cleveland, Ohio, native finished fourth among PSAC players and 60th nationally in field goal percentage (54.2). Blanton ranked 10th among conference players in offensive rebounds per game (2.6), 11th in points per game and 12th in total rebounds per game. Blanton put his name among Gannon's all-time best despite playing only two seasons in a Golden Knight uniform. He ranks 11th all-time at Gannon in career field goal percentage (.540), 11th in career scoring average (16.3) and 34th in career points (898).

    Here's the complete all-region squad:

    First Team
    Alex Falk, West Liberty
    Whis Grant, East Stroudsburg
    Luis Leao, Mercyhurst
    Chad Moore, Shepherd
    Isaac Thornton, Fairmont State
    Byron Westmorland, Bowie State

    Second Team
    Darrell Blanton, Gannon
    Nick Novak, Pitt-Johnstown
    Trevin Parks, Johnson C. Smith
    Angelo Sharpless, Elizabeth City
    Devin Taylor, Slippery Rock

    Coach of the Year: Jim Crutchfield, West Liberty University

    1. i have to laugh at WLU having coach of the year... they've done everything they were expected to do. That's not coach of the year! When you're expected to win your conference, win your tournament, win your region, and you were the pre-season top team in the Country (or top 3 maybe); you did as expected. If that was the case, Coach K of Duke would always be Coach of the Year haha

      I'm not saying Coach Reilly should get it, but look at what Gannon accomplished; Mercyhurst even... Bowie State, etc. I don't know where Bowie State was projected before the season, but if they weren't expected to be in the top 8 that's a pretty good job of coaching to get there.

      Sorry, just a stupid vent session :)

  25. Nice work Rell! Should have been first team.

  26. Wow, me anyway, I've never seen so many empty seats in first round NCAA games in my life.
    Think the experts on the New Mexico and Georgetown blogs are calling for coaches Alford and Thompson to be fired?


    Go Ladies!!!!

  27. I was looking at Florida Gulf Coast's schedule after their big win over Georgetown and noticed they played former Gannon Great Lakes Region foe Northern Kentucky twice. So I went to the NKU site and saw they are in their first year of Division I play as members of the Atlantic Sun conference.

    I liked this article on the NKU site titled "All-time Norsemen of the pre-Division I era." I know at least two names on the list appeared on the Porreco Cup all-tournament team.

  28. Not the way Jerry Slocum wanted to end his season tonight:

    The Youngstown State men's basketball team suffered a tough loss to end the season dropping an 84-82 overtime decision to Canisius on Saturday night in a second-round Tournament game at the Beeghly Center.

    The Penguins held a 22-point lead early in the second half only to watch it evaporate when the Golden Griffins scored 20 unanswered points during one stretch.

  29. Youngstown finished the season 18-16. Counting this year, in his 8 seasons at Youngstown, Slocum's record has been 92-152, for a percentage of .377. His yearly records are:

    2005-06: 7-21
    2006-07: 14-17
    2007-08: 9-21
    2008-09: 11-19
    2009-10: 8-22
    2010-11: 9-21
    2011-12: 16-15
    2012-13: 18-16