(Swarthmore, Pa.) – The Dickinson men's basketball team returned to the Centennial Conference Championship on Saturday night, earning a date with top-seed Swarthmore College with a 70-64 win over Franklin & Marshall on Friday.
The game proved worthy of a championship event as the teams traded leads throughout the night. The Garnet overcame an 11-point deficit in the second half to capture the title, 68-64.
The Red Devils erased an early lead in the first half to pull in front at halftime. They came out strong after the break and built a double-digit lead but Swarthmore would crawl back into it behind the play of Tournament MVP Cam Wiley.
Sam Lorenzo (Sterling, Va./St. Anne's Belfield) got the Devils going early, knocking down a three-pointer from the top of the arc to put Dickinson up, 7-5. Sam Lebryck answered with a three on the other end to immediately put the hosts back in front.
Jule Brown (Ardmore, Pa./Lower Merion) made a strong move to basket, completing a three-point play as the score swayed back and forth. The teams played to a 14-14 tie before Wiley and Jim Lammers hit back-to-back three-pointers from the corner.
Junior Justus Melton (Charlotte, N.C./Covenant Day) put together a pair of scores inside and Brown went to the basket again, pulling the Devils even, with 7:21 remaining in the half.
Wiley scored seven straight points before Lorenzo answered with a three-pointer to cut the deficit to 27-23. Robbie Walsh completed a three-point play to stretch the lead back to seven.
Zack Yoder hit a three-pointer to give Swarthmore its biggest lead of the night, 35-26, before the Red Devils went on a 14-1 run to erase the deficit and lead by four as the teams went into halftime.
First-year Bryce Allen (Albany, N.Y./The Hill School) triggered the run, hitting a three-pointer from just inside half court as the shot clock expired. The Red Devils forced a shot clock violation and Romocki went to work with a three-pointer and a two-hand jam from Allen to pull the Devils within one.
Walsh finally countered with a lone free throw before Wright buried back-to-back triples to put Dickinson up, 40-36, at the break.
The Red Devils shot a remarkable 70 percent from beyond the arc, hitting 7-of-10 three-pointers in the first half.
The teams traded field-goals early in the second half and Yonda hit a three-pointer to pull Swarthmore within in one, 44-43. Sophomore Michael Jurzynski (Pearl River, N.Y./The Master's School) sandwiched a pair of three-pointers around a Garnet free throw to stretch the lead to 50-44, with just under 15 minutes to play.
The Devils built the lead to double-figures on a floater from Allen, followed by a blocked shot and fast break lay-up from Wright.
Wiley hit a three-pointer before lay-ups from Allen and Mike Hinckley (Bryn Mawr, Pa./Episcopal Academy) put Dickinson up by 11. Swarthmore came back, going on a 12-0 run with Wiley putting the Garnet up, 59-58, with 6:15 remaining in regulation.
Melton tied the game with a free throw, breaking up the run with 4:46 left to play. Yonda hit a three on the next possession and Wright countered to cut the lead to one with a pair of free throws.
Brown came up with a big steal but the Devils couldn't convert on the other end and Wiley banged a three-pointer to give Swarthmore a 65-61 edge with 1:52 left to play.
The teams traded possessions and Romocki was fouled on a defensive rebound. He hit one-of-two to close the gap to one possession, 65-62.
A tough call put Lebryck on the line with just 19 seconds to play. He hit both free throws to extend the lead to five. After a timeout, Allen quickly drove to the basket, scoring and cutting the margin to three.
A great trap by the Red Devils led to jump ball as Melton forced the tie-up, giving the Devils the ball with nine seconds on the clock.
The Garnet got a hand on the ball and made a steal, sending Yonda to the line. He hit one-of-two and that would be enough as Swarthmore captured the title, 68-64.
Wiley led the Garnet with a game-high 28 points on 10-of-16 shooting as Swarthmore improved to 22-5 on the season, earning the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Wright led the Red Devils (16-11) with 19 points, going 3-for-5 from beyond the arc. Brown hit 4-of-6 shots for nine points, adding four rebounds and a pair of assists. Allen tallied nine points, two assists and two steals while Romocki finished with eight points, four rebounds and two assists.
The Red Devils made their seventh consecutive conference playoff appearance, earning their ninth trip to the semifinals, and advancing to the championship game for the sixth time.