Saturday, November 22, 2014

Miracle At The MAC: Astonishing Comeback, Blazek's Three Stun Mercyhurst

I was thinking this morning that while Gannon senior All-American Adam Blazek isn't conducting a farewell tour like Derek Jeter, he is playing his final game in some gymnasiums. His final shot at the Mercyhurst Athletic Center will be remembered for a long time to come. Moments after nearly losing his balance, the ball, and the game, Blazek drained a right-wing three, propelling Gannon to an improbable 46-44 win at Mercyhurst Saturday afternoon.

I've seen a lot of basketball during my nearly 45 years on the planet, but I have never seen a contest that resembled today's game flow. The Lakers did not score during the first 9:32 of the game and then were held to just three points over the game's final 11:21. During the 20 minutes in between, Mercyhurst scorched the nets for 41 points and had their arch rivals all but buried, leading the Knights 41-25 with 10 minutes to play. At that point the mood in the MAC was that it would take a small miracle for the Knights to get to 40 total points, let alone with the game. A fan sitting in front of me even said, "A 1-3 start -- that's real impressive."

GU benefited because of timely shooting from Girbran Smith -- his only points of the game were consecutive three-pointers with under two minutes to play -- and a tentative approach by Mercyhurst. As Gannon inched closer and closer, I said several times about the Lakers down the stretch, "Nobody wants to shoot it." It was like the 'Hurst shifted from attack-and-score mode to playing Hot Potato. Rhythm jumpers that found nothing but net were replaced by line-drive threes that clanked off the rim (and a couple times the bankboard) after hesitating to shoot.

Had Blazek missed his clutch three, there would have been plenty to gripe about: a 1-3 start, falling behind by double-digits again, more miserable first half shooting (21%), an airball on a free throw, the lame atmosphere at the half-filled MAC. But skip all that for now. Be thankful -- it's that time of year, right? -- that we are fortunate to have witnessed one of the most memorable shots in Gannon basketball history.

Other thoughts on the GU/MU game:
* The only other game I could think of similar to this one in multiple ways was Gannon's 69-64 win at Mercyhurst on Jan. 30, 1990, my sophomore season. The favored Knights -- we advanced to the Elite 8 that season -- trailed a woeful but hot-shooting Hurst team by 13 with 8 minutes to play until a furious comeback sent the mostly maroon-wearing crowd home happy. Bill Kalbaugh, who had been unjustly fired by Mercyhurst after the previous season and was now a GU assistant, was the subject of head coach Bob Dukiet's post-game victory speech. As our team cheered then started to settle down, an exhilarated Dukiet shouted, "Billy ... Billy ... for God to do that to them, they must have really ****ed you over!"

* I know league schedules are difficult to piece together, but the PSAC should never, ever slate a Gannon/Mercyhurst game while the schools are on break. There were no cheerleaders, no dance teams, and no football teams in the stands to root against their rival. I recall when some Gannon/Hurst games were played at the Tullio Convention Center to accommodate the throng of fans. Today's game would have fit inside the Mercyhurst Prep gymnasium.

* I know I mentioned this last year, but it bears worth repeating. Do they not keep extra scoreboard light bulbs around the MAC? Several bulbs were burnt out, giving the impression that what goes on in that gym isn't all that important. Smith's big three with 1:00 left looked on the East scoreboard like it was scored with !:00 to go.

* Can the PSAC fine players for flopping? The Lakers did that several times and drew charges against the Knights today, but James Ewing's effort to try to draw a whistle on a Raphell Thomas-Edwards screen (you can watch it here at the 2:40 mark) with just over a minute to play is pretty blatant. If the baseline official would have been suckered by Ewing's pratfall, John Reilly might have thrown him into a snowbank.

* I didn't see the officials waving off Laker Callon Dailey's last-gasp attempt to tie the game and his field goal try is listed in the official stats, but it should not have counted had the shot gone in. I can say that with certainty because the video on the Gannon website (see the screen grab on this page) shows the clock at 0.0 and the lights on behind the bankboard. Yes, it looks like there might be 0.9 on the clock, but it's actually that MAC light bulb problem I mentioned earlier.

* With UPJ, Edinboro, and Mercyhurst losing today plus IUP having played only one league game, Gannon is alone in first place with a 2-0 record. Who said starting PSAC play early was a problem?

* My 9-year-old daughter Evelyn attended the matinee contest, so I asked if she wanted to write today's blog post instead of me. She typed something for me, and I promised to include it here: "Little cute puppies!!!!!!!!!!!"


  1. I do not know HOW they want that game. I swear in years I will look back and ask the same question. That being said, always good to steal a win. I am going to have a stroke by about game 15 this year.

  2. One of the most improbable wins in memory. It looked absolutely, positively, completely over when Mercyhurst grabbed the 41-25 lead. Gannon showed absolutely no signs of life. There was no chance that GU could pull it out. Gannon and Mercyhurst have played their share of ugly slogs over the years, especially at the MAC, and it looked like one of the all-time ugly games.

    The Hurst seemed to look up at the scoreboard at the same time and thought, "Wow ... we're up by 16 points!" The little 6-0 mini-run by GU over the next four or so minutes gave us a little faint hope that they could at the very least make it interesting. And once it was 43-37, it got VERY interesting.

    Based on the two games that I've seen, I've never seen a Gannon team that can shut down opposing offenses for an extended period of time as this one can. John Reilly's had some incredible defensive teams in his years at GU, but this team may be the best one yet. This team can do some great things this year if Reilly can find a little offense to match the defense.

  3. Random - anyine know about the disappearance of brandon domenivk from gannons roster?

    1. I was told he left the program but I don't have any details beyond that. His Twitter account still says Gannon basketball however.

  4. Be sure to check out this photo of great Gannon fan Everett Wensel from Saturday's game. I also liked how when Blazek his his game-winning shot, Wensel sprinted across the Mercyhurst stage:

  5. Just a few facts on Saturday's game. ( a win is a win) There were a total of 131 Division ll games on Saturday and the combined score of GU/M game was the lowest of all of them. Two hundred sixty other teams played and 35 of these teams either tied or exceeded the total points of the GU/M game.

    1. Cool research, Bob! The lowest scoring Division II game in the country was right here in Erie.

      I bet that a few other Gannon / Hurst games at the MAC were the lowest scoring D-II games in the USA. Heck, Saturday's game had 10 point more than the 44-36 train wreck in February 2013.

  6. I just heard an update on Brandon Domenick. I was told he has been out of action with an injury, apparently a concussion. Within the past couple weeks, he announced plans to transfer closer to home at Westminster after finishing the fall semester at Gannon.

    1. Thanks for thr update. Sad to hear that i was loking forward to seeing what he could bring to the table. Best wishes to him!

  7. I think Saturday's game was an early example of the benefits of playing a tough early schedule. It's never an easy game up there.

    I'm guessing that we are witnessing the #1 Defensive team in Division II right now. Once some offensive kinks get worked out, the team will be playing at an entirely new level.

  8. Win win win no matter what. Great defensive team. Lets pick up on that offense. Little less turn overs.

  9. Adam Blazek has been named PSAC West player of the week. I'm sure he got Gary Manchel's vote.

  10. "he's the player of the year.. he can score.. make him earn it!!" - classic Manchel :)

  11. He's either the "Iceman" for the ice in his viens
    the "Blaze" for the way he plays on fire.
    Your choice.

  12. It is great watching Adam grow over four years into the player his is today. In the OLD DAYS it was fun watching players mature over four years. I know that was the OLD DAYS and today is different but it does not mean better. If you look at Adam's four years and you will see he has played with thirty three different players, that is an average turn over of eight players per year. I know this is nationwide but it does make it hard to relate to a team and the players. Call me old fashion but bring back the OLD DAYS where the fans knew the players and the players knew the fans.

  13. Just received an email with these NCAA stats:

    * Gannon ranks #2 out of 297 NCAA Division II teams in scoring defense. That's the good news ...
    * On the flip side, Gannon ranks 294th out of 297 in scoring offense.

    1. Which means that practically any and every player that steps on the court for Gannon is at least a good defender, if not above-average/solid defender. So it sounds like MOST of the team has learned "the system" and bought into it. We know this team CAN score points (we saw it last year from the returning 4 starters and we've seen brief spurts this season from a player here and there). I like what I'm seeing and the possibilities... what's easier to do? Have a kid learn the program's defensive schematics? or help a kid get his shooting stride back/work on some shooting mechanics? I don't think this team will ever be an offensive machine (I'm envisioning our season high in a game would be 60ish, unless we end up against some pansy.), but they are a defensive juggernaut and that is the HARD part to learn - most have already!

      Happy Holidays all - be safe, eat great and cheer on Gannon!

    2. If I remember correctly, we had a few minor problems scoring early last season as well. The important thing is that this team doesn't care about missed shots, they only care about making the next one.

      Case in Point: Girbran Smith in final minutes, and, Adam at the buzzer.


      Looks like some very talented teams visiting this weekend.....(Including the Rock again, although we don't play them..) It should be another interesting set of games.

      Happy Thanksgiving to all!

  14. Yikes!!
    Ladies trip in Ashland 80 to 73
    Give thanks to God & enjoy your favorite part of the turkey.
    Hopefully the men don't have a turkey on Fri and Satwe

  15. Ladies' loss not all that much of a surprise. They seemed to be struggling a bit right now, definitely missing Brennan. Tough road game @ Ashland, who has a solid program. I'm sure that the Lady Knights will learn from the loss and improve when conference play resumes.

  16. Disagree
    Ashland going in was 1-2 GU was 3-0
    Gannon has 2 starting SR (Nettie & Brit) with a strong SR Mollie off the bench. Also seasoned JRs Thies & Morgan.
    Ashland has 1 SR & 1JR. on the team, the rest are frosh
    Ashland started 2FR, 2SO & 1 SR
    I expected this in the W side of the ledger.

  17. I am with Observor ... not a big surprise. Ashland won the national championship two years ago and were 18-9 last season. More than a solid program.

    Gannon is a good, but not great, team right now, and has the potential to get much better as the season progresses, especially upon Brennan's return (no idea when that is ... hopefully soon).

    And it's kind of refreshing to lose to someone other than Edinboro.

    1. Just don't see it.
      GU went 28-4, AU went 18-9. We only lost 2 from last years playoff team.
      GU has an experienced team. AU has only 2 upper classmen (women) the rest are FR & SO.
      Two yrs ago GU also had a Nat'l playoff team in SAT. I was there their biggie Nat'l POY graduated that yr.
      We were in the PO last yr AU wasn't. GU 3-0 AU 1-2 and you're not surprised that AU won.
      You certainly must have a low opinion GU W BB.
      I must be stupid but I didn't see this coming.

  18. Anyone going to the titanic match up at Clarion this evening?

    Central Pennsylvania @ Clarion, 6pm tip.

    Has anyone ever heard of "Central Pennsylvania"?

    1. I'm guessing the students at Central Pennsylvania might have heard of Central Pennsylvania. And the coaches. They probably heard of it. And maybe the students' parents. Some of them anyway.

  19. Central Penn did beat Jamestown CC this year are now 4-0. They also have 2 other CCs on the sched.
    Thankfully the game is cnxl'd (weather).
    Clarion might have been in trouble :)

  20. Wow, hard to believe the flak for giving my opinion. Is this turning into one of those blogs where nothing but rah-rah positive opinion is welcome? Maybe I should reiterate my point: Didn't think the GU Women were playing very well in any of their games (I had seen all 3). Although they worked hard and hustled, they shot poorly, even at home. They seemed to have trouble running their offense effectively. They needed Sebald to come up big against a surprisingly porous Mercyhurst defense at the end of the game (3 consecutive wide open layups) to pull that game out. Meanwhile, they were traveling significant distance (>3 miles) to play for the first time, against a team with a solid program despite their record (who had they played? Maybe they were good teams) and last year's record. If you had seen GU's first 3 games, you should not have been surprised they lost a relatively close game. Brennan's absence isn't helping, either.

  21. And if you've ever seen Sue Ramsay's teams play at home, they are ALWAYS tough to beat, records past or present notwithstanding. 3-1, 2-0 in league play; sounds like a decent start.

    And to cite GU "only" losing two starters is missing the point. Look who those were. There is plenty of talent on this team; but they don't have the leadership factor yet. To me, that's the biggest thing lost with the graduation of Papich and Sundberg, four years worth of strong leadership. Here's hoping that grows as the season moves ahead.

  22. Well I guess I know when I'm taking to the woodshed. You two guys have so much more in depth knowledge than I.
    I'll just keep my mouth shut so I can learn more.

  23. If you think one player does not impact a team look at Edinboro without Val Majewski . Talk about as exciding as watching paint dry Louisville 45 Cleveland State 33 and no that is not a half time score. That had to be a fun game to be watching.

  24. Fanman, not meant to be anything other than my opinion. Your points are well-taken. Disappointing? Sure. Expected a win at Ashland? You bet. I think they will be fine, IF leadership is shown from a couple of players. Well, that and making layups and free throws. Wishing you and your family a blessed and happy Thanksgiving!

  25. What Boze said-Its my opinion. You disagreed with me, I disagreed with you. It's all good and what a blog like this is supposed to be about. Not meant to be taken personally. Don't.

    As for the GU Women's basketball, I do not have a low opinion of the program. But to me, they did appear to be struggling in their first 3 games Remember, they lost their most dynamic, consistent player in Papich and their floor leader in Sundberg. That may only be 2 players, but it is 40% of their starting lineup. It takes time for others to step into and become accustomed to leadership roles. This is where they miss Brennan, as she is a similar player to Papich. Also, they are adjusting to Coach Brunelli's style and using more of the players he brought in, and now that they are another year removed from the Wright Era, that is another difficult adjustment. Since other players have not been scoring well, other teams are putting more of their energies toward stopping Blake. There's a lot going on.

    You can't expect ANY team to come out of the gate playing the best they can, particularly when there are so many changes to adjust to. There is plenty of time for the Women to improve, and I'm guessing and certainly hoping that they will.

    Happy Thanksgiving one and all!

  26. I am not that shocked that the Women lost against Ashland. The team had been very sloppy when it comes to making layups and making their foul shots. Besides, when you get outscored 46-24 in the paint, you will not win very many games.

  27. No offense taken,
    I never played the game. Had to work through schooling. So I clearly am behind when it comes analysis of the game
    compared to others on this board.
    I respond more on emotion than knowledge. Ha ha
    Philly or anyone beating the cowpoopers made Turkey twice as good.
    I give thanks to He who makes all wonderful things.
    And to you all, enjoy families on this special day.