In a season of ups and downs, the final seconds of The University of Scranton basketball team's momentous matchup at Susquehanna on Wednesday was a microcosm of the past four months. But the Royals rose at the end, thanks to a 15-foot leaner by sophomore guard Kyle DeVerna (Rockville Centre, N.Y./Kellenberg Memorial) that banked in at the buzzer for an 83-82 victory that keeps the team's Landmark Conference playoff hopes alive.
Scranton (12-12, 8-5 Landmark) rallied from a nine-point halftime deficit and led for almost the entire final five minutes. But Susquehanna (9-14, 6-7 Landmark) scored with 16 seconds left to pull within 81-80, then forced a turnover on a jump ball. The River Hawks then scored again with nine seconds left for a one-point lead.
But the Royals immediately inbounded the ball and senior guard Kevin Doolan (Basking Ridge, N.J./Ridge) sped up the left side of the court. He found DeVerna cutting to the foul line. He took a dribble to the left elbow, faked a defender into the air, leaned past him and used the most beautiful Valentine's Day kiss off the glass to set off a wild victory celebration by the Royals.
The win keeps Scranton in tie for fourth place with Catholic (14-10, 8-5). Moravian (18-6, 10-3) has a one-game lead in first place, with Juniata (20-4, 9-4) and Drew (16-8, 9-4) tied for second. Scranton can clinch a playoff berth with a win at Goucher on Saturday and a Catholic loss to Moravian.
DeVerna's heroic bucket capped a second-half in which the Royals shot 60.7 percent (17-for-28), including 5-for-8 from 3-point range, and committed just four turnovers. Senior guard Mitch Cross (Marriottsville, Md./Loyola-Blakefield) had 19 of his team-high 23 points in the second half, including seven in the first three minutes of the second half as the Royals began their comeback.
Senior forward Drew Schankweiler (Mechanicsburg, Pa./Mechanicsburg) had yet another monster game with 19 points and 15 boards while going 9-for-13 from the field. DeVerna finished with 13 points and four assists, senior guard Ethan Danzig (Clarks Green, Pa./Abington Heights) finished with 12 points and Doolan had nine points and three assists.
Scranton finished at 56.6 percent (30-for-53) from the field for the game, including 8-for-16 from 3-point range. Cross was 4-for-7 and Danzig was 3-for-6 from deep. Scranton hit 15 of 19 (78.9 percent) from the free throw line and committed 14 turnovers.
Ryan Traub led Susquehanna with 25 points, Tyler Hoagland had 19 points and nine assists, and Bryce Butler finished with 10 points. The River Hawks shot 50 percent (31-for-62) from the field, including 6-for-15 from 3-point range. They hit 14 of 17 (82.4 percent) from the free throw line. Susquehanna won the rebounding battle, 30-27 and committed just six turnovers.
Scranton will wrap up its regular season on Saturday, Feb. 17, when the Royals travel to Baltimore, Md. to take on Goucher at 2 p.m.