USM men advance in playoffs, hold off furious York rally for 1-point win

It took some time for the University of Saint Mary men's basketball team to really establish its own identity after the graduation of Grant Greenberg, but ultimately, they did.

A team full of slash, dash and splash got hot at just the right time to win five of six games down the stretch to secure a fourth seed in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC) playoffs that began Thursday night at the Ryan Center.

But competition has its challenges and Saint Mary played host to a York team for the second time in six days, having won 81-73 on Saturday to secure homecourt rights to this contest.

It's one thing to beat a good team two games in a row, but twice in a week?

Well we won't say piece of cake, in fact it ended up being more like trying to take down five full supreme pizzas in an hour, but don’t ever say the Spires can’t overcome a challenge.

They did that when they saw a huge lead evaporate to trail York late in overtime before two free throws with just over a second left by senior guard Demetrius Cady made the difference in a 97-96 win and pushed the Spires (17-12) into Saturday’s 7 p.m. semifinal at No. 1 Southwestern, a 75-73 winner over No. 8 Ottawa.

Cady finished with 27 points while Brett Marsh added 24 points and eight rebounds and Payton Meek and Edvonte Copeland chipped in with 12 and 11 points apiece.

“There was a lot of energy and the crowd brought it today,” Cady said. “It was a big game overall. I drove to the right side, got some contact and it was kind of a late call, but it was the right call. I got hit on the right arm, my shooting arm. I just relied on all the work I had put in and took it from there.”

It was a rally born more from great play by York than poor performing by the host Spires.

“They were getting downhill pretty easy on us and getting to the rim – they were knocking shots down,” USM head coach Troy Brown said of York. “York is a team that will go on a run and it’s more of a matter of how big that run is. They got confidence and everything came together. They took advantage of our height disadvantage. You have to attack and leave it to the officials to either make the call or not make the call. The officials let it go and let us play.

“They played well and we would contain them and they would spin on us…they played well.”

USM didn't take long to reap the advantages of a fantastic fan section and they took hat bump in adrenalin into being one massive force on the court throughout the first half.

The lead started big at 14-4 in the first few minutes, jumped to 27-9 after 10 minutes and finally to a margin of 46-25 before intermission before settling for an impressive 46-29 lead over a very good York squad.

“It was a great half, we were hitting shots and when tough shots fall like that it leads to good offense and good offense leads to good defense,” Brown said. “We said at halftime saying we didn’t think we were going to shoot that well in the second half and we had to make stops to maintain that lead. They were playing pretty dang good defense in the second half.”

They showed how good after halftime, cutting the USM deficit to 48-39 early on after the break, but USM once again got hot from the floor and the lead bumped back up to 15.

York wouldn't relent and a triple just north of seven minutes remaining of regulation pulled them to within 76-69.

Soon after another three with 5:20 left pulled York to within 76-74 and everything g USM had done had al oust been laid to waste. 

The teams battled back and forth late and York had a chance to take the lead at the free throw line but split two attempts and a missed USM three at the buzzer sent the teams to the extra session tied at 85.

A Teyvon Lundy layup with 1:13 to go gave USM a 95-91 lead in the overtime before York scored five straight, taking the lead on their 10th and final triple, 96-95 with just under 20 seconds left after two offensive rebounds kept them alive.

Then Lundy’s drive to the rim with 1.5 seconds led to a foul call that came very late after the play had finished out.

Game over.

“We are gelling together and starting to play better together and figure each other out,” Cady said. “(York) hit a lot of tough shots and a lot of their shots were contested. You have to tip your hats to them. They just stepped up and made big plays. Thankfully, we were able to pull it out for the win.”

“Right now it’s just survive and advance,” Brown said.”