With lightning and thunder raging outside the Long Center for most of the game, The University of Scranton men's basketball waged a battle for the ages inside the doors of the storied gymnasium. When the weather subsided outside and the dust settled inside, the Royals came out with a 68-63 victory over Moravian for their seventh Landmark Conference championship in 10 years.
The victory gives Scranton (21-6) its 24th conference title overall and secures an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, which begins on Friday, March 3. The Royals will be making their fourth straight NCAA appearance and 28th overall.
Senior center John Vitkus (Mahopac, N.Y./Mahopac) was named championship MVP after finishing with a career-high 27 points on 11-for-14 from the field. He also had five rebounds, two blocks and a steal. He was also 5-for-6 from the line.
Junior guard Ethan Danzig (Clarks Green, Pa./Abington Heights) added 12 points, six assists and five rebounds, and freshman guard Kyle DeVerna (Rockville Centre, N.Y./Kellenberg Memorial) added nine points and four rebounds off the bench.
The game tipped off with constant lightning and thunder as severe weather that caused tornado warnings and numerous problems throughout the area continued outside. The Royals raced out to an 8-2 lead, but Moravian (19-8) used its full-court to fuel a 15-2 run to take a 17-10 lead midway through the half.
But Scranton settled down and answered with a 6-1 spurt and eventually took a 33-30 halftime lead when Danzig got free for a layup on an inbounds pass just before the half.
The Royals slowly built the lead to 11 with 11:15 to play behind a 7-0 run that included a dunk by freshman forward Matthew Mancuso (Bridgewater, N.J./Bridgewater-Raritan), a 3-pointer from Danzig and two free throw by Vitkus.
But Moravian fought back with a 10-2 run to cut Scranton's lead to 53-50 with 8:11 remaining. From there, the game see-sawed between Scranton building a seven-point lead and Moravian creeping back within three or four.
It was still four with under a minute to play when Vitkus got free inside for a dunk and was fouled, and the free throw gave the Royals a 68-61 lead with 29 seconds left. The Greyhounds scored 11 seconds later, but missed their final shot with seven seconds left and the Royals ran out the clock.
Mancuso finished the game with eight points and five rebounds, and junior guard Drew Schankweiler (Mechanicsburg, Pa./Mechanicsburg) had eight points and six assists. The duo combined with Vitkus to help Scranton post a 50-36 advantage in points in the paint.
Scranton finished the game shooting 50.9 percent (28-for-55) from the field, despite making just two of 12 3-point attempts. The Royals hit 10 of 13 free throws and had a 33-25 rebounding edge. They also committed just 10 turnovers. Junior guard Kevin Doolan (Basking Ridge, N.J./Ridge) had another fine performance, handing Moravian's pressure all afternoon long and finishing with four assists and zero turnovers in 37 minutes.
Moravian shot 47.1 percent (24-for-51) from the field, including 3-for-12 from 3-point range. The Greyhounds hit 12 of 17 free throws and also committed 10 turnovers.
This is Scranton ninth conference championship in 16 seasons under head coach Carl Danzig, who earned his 300th career victory earlier this season. The Royals will be making their 10th NCAA Tournament appearance under his guidance.
Scranton will find out its NCAA Tournament first-round opponent and location on Monday at 12:30 p.m. when the tournament field is announced on NCAA.com.
Moravian vs Scranton
2/25/17 4:00 p.m. at John Long Center, Scranton, Pa.
At John Long Center, Scranton, Pa.
Brandon McGuire 9-10 1-3 21; Oneil Holder 5-12 7-7 17; Will Brazukas 3-4 0-0 6; Jimmy Murray 2-9 1-2 6; Sean Hanna 3-7 0-1 6; Jake McGee 1-5 1-2 3; Isaiah Jennings 1-2 0-0 2; C.J. Barnes 0-1 2-2 2; Matt Cardonne 0-0 0-0 0; John Hargraves 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 24-51 12-17 63.
John Vitkus 11-14 5-6 27; Ethan Danzig 5-8 0-0 12; Kyle DeVerna 3-9 3-4 9; Matthew Mancuso 3-4 2-2 8; Drew Schankweiler 4-6 0-0 8; Chris McCullough 1-7 0-0 2; Kevin Doolan 1-6 0-1 2; Mitch Cross 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 28-55 10-13 68.
Scranton...................... 33 35 - 68
3-point goals--Moravian 3-12 (Brandon McGuire 2-2; Jimmy Murray 1-2; Sean Hanna 0-1; Jake McGee 0-2; Isaiah Jennings 0-1; C.J. Barnes 0-1; Oneil Holder 0-3), Scranton 2-12 (Ethan Danzig 2-5; Kyle DeVerna 0-3; Chris McCullough 0-2; Kevin Doolan 0-1; Mitch Cross 0-1). Fouled out--Moravian-None, Scranton-None. Rebounds--Moravian 25 (Brandon McGuire 9), Scranton 33 (Drew Schankweiler 6). Assists--Moravian 8 (Isaiah Jennings 3), Scranton 15 (Ethan Danzig 6). Total fouls--Moravian 16, Scranton 16. Technical fouls--Moravian-None, Scranton-None. A-1500