For the first time since March 5, 2014, the Berkeley College men's basketball team found itself on the losing end of a USCAA Division II Men's Basketball Tournament game, as the Knights had their four-year National championship run ended this evening, losing to Penn State York in the quarterfinal round of the 2018-2019 tournament. With the defeat, Berkeley slipped to 21-5 on the year, while the Nittany Lions improved to 22-8 and advanced to the semifinal round against Johnson & Wales-Charlotte tomorrow.
Penn State York's victory served as redemption in multiple ways. The Nittany Lions not only avenged their loss to the Knights in the 2016-2017 National title game, but they also put an end to Berkeley's incredible 13-game winning streak on the National stage. Following the Knights' loss, Head Coach Jonathan Pena spoke.
"First and foremost, I want to congratulate Penn State York on a job well done," Pena said. "They played a very tough game, remaining poised and aggressive throughout. I want to wish them the best of luck for the remainder of the tournament. As for our guys, we weren't able to execute the way we wanted to. We fought back valiantly after falling behind by 10 to eventually take a one-point lead, but they were able to grab the edge again, and we weren't able to come up with a basket at the end to either tie or win the game. This hurts, but I think it'll serve as a learning experience for myself, our staff, and our student-athletes. I'm confident that through hard work, we can be right back in this tournament next season to give it another shot."
Berkeley College trailed by nine points at one point in the first half (19-10) before heading into the locker room down by three (36-33). In the second stanza, Penn State York built its lead up to 10 (45-35) with 16:35 remaining in regulation, but Berkeley clawed back, going on a 14-3 run over the ensuing 5:56 to grab a 49-48 advantage. That aforementioned run was highlighted by a pair of three-point baskets and a converted free throw by Nigel Hemingway, who served as a sparkplug for Berkeley all evening.
Later, the Nittany Lions once again seized control of the contest, grabbing a commanding 65-58 edge with 2:37 remaining. Still, Berkeley would not go down quietly. Ricardo Ayuso converted on a driving layup, and after the Nittany Lions' Derrick Hoffman would misfire on the front end of a one-and-one opportunity, Berkeley's Deylon Bovell rebounded the basketball and threw it ahead to Shamiek Sheppard who could sink a layup while getting fouled. Sheppard would miss the free throw, however, keeping it a three-point Penn State York lead (65-62) with 2:07 left.
The Nittany Lions later clinged to a 66-64 lead when Ayuso drained a three-point basket with 1:20 left in the contest to put Berkeley College ahead 67-66. 17 seconds later, Penn State York's Michael Coleman would convert on a layup to put the Nittany Lions back ahead by a score of 68-67.
Penn State York eventually held a 69-67 lead with 11 seconds remaining. Following a 30-second timeout by the Knights, Berkeley ran a play for Ayuso, who would misfire on a potential go-ahead three-point basket with three seconds remaining. Justin Luton would collect the rebound and scamper away from all opposing players, running out the clock and giving the Nittany Lions a dramatic two-point victory.
Despite the loss for Berkeley College, Nigel Hemingway led the way for the Knights, scoring a game-high 15 points, converting on four three-point baskets in the process. He also collected four rebounds and added a steal. Ayuso finalized his evening with 13 points and a pair of steals, and Dequan Jones played his heart out, netting eight points, snatching five boards, tallying four assists, and swatting a pair of shots.
In the victory for the Nittany Lions, five players scored in double figures, including Hoffman, as he scored a team-high 14 points while snatching seven rebounds. Coleman, John Gillespie, and Anthony Bennett Jr. all scored 11 points apiece for Penn State York, as well.
Where some opposing missed free throws helped the Knights in their victory over the Nittany Lions in the 2016-2017 USCAA Division II National title game, empty trips to the charity stripe absolutely doomed Berkeley College this evening, with the Knights connecting on only 10 of their 23 shots from the line. Penn State York wasn't much better, with the Nittany Lions hitting on just eight of their 18 attempts from the stripe.
Penn State York shot just a tad better from the field, hitting on 43.1 percent of its attempts (28-for-65) compared to 41 percent for Berkeley (25-61). The Knights held a 45-43 edge in the rebounding department, while also swatting nine shots to the Nittany Lions' two. Penn State York collected 15 assists compared to eight for Berkeley, and the Nittany Lions committed 14 turnovers to the Knights' 17.
Berkeley still has one game remaining this season, as the Knights will take on Villa Maria in tomorrow's consolation game at Penn State Fayette. It'll be the third year in a row the Knights and Vikings have met on the National stage. Two years ago, Berkeley defeated Villa Maria in the quarterfinals before turning the Vikings back in last season's championship contest. Tomorrow, the two teams will meet in the consolation round, with tip-off scheduled for 10:30am.