Rock advances to semifinals
With Queen’s “We Will Rock You” playing during the final seconds of overtime, the Slippery Rock men’s basketball team held onto their 62-58 lead, ending Gannon University’s playoff run on Tuesday night.
The win advances Slippery Rock to the semifinal round of playoffs, hosted by Indiana University of Pennsylvania, against East Stroudsburg University Friday at 5:30 p.m.
After losing to Gannon at The Hammermill Center on week earlier, the Rock went into Tuesday’s game looking for redemption.
Senior center Luiz Santos felt that the team did a much better job at keeping their heads in the game and working together this week.
“We were down by 10, down by 11, down by 12, but we kept our heads and stayed together,” Santos said. “We kept each other in the game.”
Santos contributed nine points and seven rebounds in the win.
The Rock’s leading scorer was junior forward Tabari Perry with 19 points. Senior forwards Devin Taylor and Gerald Brooks also posted double-digits for SRU. Taylor scored 16 points and Brooks had 10.
Head coach Kevin Reynolds couldn’t have been more proud and impressed with the focus and performance of his team.
“The guys buckled down,” Reynolds said. “A lot of guys made a lot of big plays. They really hung in there, 45 minutes is a long game.”
The Rock and the Golden Knights fought hard against each other the entire game. The game was tied nine times and there were seven lead changes. With the continuing change of momentum, both teams’ fan sections were brought to their feet.
Reynolds was grateful for the fans that took the trip and hopes to see it continue.
“It was a great crowd,” Reynolds said. “They really helped and we need them (tonight).”
As the second half was starting to wind down, Gannon was up 48-39 with nine minutes remaining, and the Green and White were staring right at the fate of their season.
Santos said that they never counted themselves out and really pulled together at the right moment.
“Everybody was looking at each other in the face saying ‘stay in the game’,” Santos said. “Basketball is a long game. You need to focus and work together.”
The Rock defense held strong, only allowing the Knights to put up two more points in the final minutes of the second half. Offensively, they took their time and avoided mistakes. This brought the score to 48-50 with less than two minutes to play in the game.
With eight seconds remaining, Taylor came in from the left side, made a quick shot and tied the game. Gannon regained possession of the ball but missed a three-pointer and the game was sent into overtime.
“I was thinking we need to score here, get a good look and have enough time so that if I missed we had a chance to tap it in,” Taylor said. “We are a a great rebounding team, the guys really get on the glass.”
Gannon came firing right at the start of overtime, taking the lead just seconds into the period. The Knights scored eight out of the first 12 points, and SRU was down 58-54 with 2:45 left.
Brooks closed the gap to two points by making two crucial foul shots.
The clock continued to tick away as senior guard Darious Clark set up for a three-point shot with 30 seconds left in overtime. Clark took the shot and as the ball soared through the net, his team and the fans went wild. Clark’s shot put the Rock up 59-58 and gave him his only points of the game.
Perry sank two foul shots to give the Rock a 61-58 lead with 12 seconds remaining, and Brooks made another foul shot to seal the deal for SRU.
Although everyone was excited, Santos said that they still have to focus on what lies ahead.
“I’m so excited about the win, but we cannot get too excited because this is just one step,” Santos said. “We still have another team to get through.”