Junior guard Kevin Doolan (Basking Ridge, N.J./Ridge) made a handful of key second-half plays as The University of Scranton men's basketball team pulled away late in a back-and-forth battle to defeat Catholic, 75-68, in a Landmark Conference semifinal on Wednesday night in the Long Center.
The victory advances top-seeded Scranton (20-6) into the Saturday's championship game against second-seeded Moravian (19-7) on Saturday at 4 p.m. The Greyhounds knocked off third-seeded Susquehanna, 81-69, in Wednesday night's other semifinal.
Doolan finished the night with 15 points and six assists, and it was his clutch play that made the difference in the second half. With the Royals trailing, 46-44, with 13:06 to play, he went on his own personal 7-0 run with two layups and a 3-pointer to put Scranton ahead, 51-46, with 10:56 left and force a Catholic timeout.
The Cardinals (17-9) rallied to tie the game and eventually take a 63-59 lead with 3:31 left. But Scranton responded with four straight points to pull even with 2:28 left. The game was still tied with 1:43 left when freshman forward Matthew Mancuso (Bridgewater, N.J./Bridgewater-Raritan) found himself alone underneath for a layup and a 68-66 Royals lead.
The Royals then got a stop on the defensive end and Doolan made the play of the night, driving down the left side of the lane and floating a shot over two defenders and high off the glass and through the net as he fell out of bounds. It gave Scranton a 70-66 lead with 40 seconds left, and the Royals proceeded to ice the victory at the free throw line, hitting five of six in the final 29 seconds.
Junior guard Ethan Danzig (Clarks Green, Pa./Abington Heights) had a game-high 20 points to lead Scranton. He also had six rebounds and three assists. Senior center John Vitkus (Mahopac, N.Y./Mahopac) finished with 14 points, five rebounds, two assists and a block, and Mancuso added nine points and a career-high nine rebounds.
The Royals shot 54.9 percent (28-for-51) for the game, including a scorching 15-for-22 (68.2 percent) in the second half. They hit five of 12 3-pointers on the night, including three by Danzig, the one by Doolan and junior forward Drew Schankweiler (Mechanicsburg, Pa./Mechanicsburg) made his first career 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer.
The Royals committed only 11 turnovers and had a 40-28 edge in points in the paint. They also made 14 of 20 free throw attempts.
Catholic finished the night hitting 27-for-62 (42.9 percent) from the field, including 7-for-24 (29.2 percent) from 3-point range. The Cardinals were 7-for-10 from the free throw line, committed only nine turnovers and won the rebounding battle, 32-30.
Catholic is now 1-11 in the Long Center, including 0-3 in postseason play, since the two schools joined the Landmark Conference for the 2007-08 season.
Scranton will be making its eighth championship game appearance in the Landmark Conference's 10-year history. The Royals won the title six times previously – 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015. Scranton is seeking its 24th conference championship overall.
Saturday's title game matchup between Scranton and Moravian will be the first time the two schools have met in the Landmark Conference championship. They met once previously in the Landmark playoffs, with Scranton winning, 82-70, in a semifinal played on Feb. 22, 2012.