|John Vitkus||Mitch Cross||Kyle DeVerna|
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The University of Scranton men's basketball rallied over the final five minutes, but could not get over the final hurdle in a 63-62 loss at Catholic in a Landmark Conference game in the DuFour Center on Saturday afternoon.
The Royals (17-6, 9-3 Landmark) had their six-game winning streak come to an end. The loss drops them in to a tie for second place with Moravian (16-7, 9-3 Landmark), a game behind Susquehanna (20-3, 10-2 Landmark).
Scranton can take a big step toward the top seed in the upcoming Landmark playoffs when they host Susquehanna on Wednesday, Feb. 15, at 7 p.m. The Royals knocked off the River Hawks earlier this season and a win on Wednesday would give them the tiebreaker over Susquehanna.
Senior John Vitkus (Mahopac, N.Y./Mahopac) led Scranton with 14 points, junior Mitch Cross (Marriottsville, Md./Loyola-Blakefield) finished with 11, including two big 3-pointers down the stretch, and freshman guard Kyle DeVerna (Rockville Centre, N.Y./Kellenberg Memorial) added 10.
Scranton held a 36-34 edge at halftime and the game remained nip-and-tuck for a good part of the second half before Catholic (16-7, 8-4 Landmark) used a 10-1 run to take a 61-52 lead with 4:55 to play.
But Cross hit a pair of 3-pointers, junior guard Ethan Danzig (Clarks Green, Pa./Abington Heights) had two key blocks on the defensive end, and Vitkus hit two free throws for an 8-0 run to bring the Royals within one with 2:39 to play.
The teams traded baskets over the next 85 seconds, but Scranton could not get over the hump missing two shots from the field and two free throws that could have tied or given the Royals the lead in the final minute.
Danzig added nine points, five rebounds and three blocks for the Royals, who finished 37.5 percent (24-for-64) from the field, including 5-for-11 from 3-point range. They made nine of 14 free throw attempts and committed a season-low seven turnovers. Scranton also held a 29-20 edge in bench points, as freshman forward Matthew Mancuso (Bridgewater, N.J./Bridgewater-Raritan) finished with eight points and five rebounds off the bench.
Catholic shot 39.7 percent (23-for-58) from the field, including 5-for-10 from 3-point range. The Cardinals made 12 of 20 free throw attempts, had a 45-39 edge in rebounding and committed 10 turnovers.