I've calmed down a little from the euphoria of this afternoon.
But another great perfomance by the Mountaineers. They need one more to reach the NCAA tournament and be part of the greatest sporting event in America. Today's win was super for the program and a great effort, but without a followup win on Wednesday it's just another playoff win over the rival.
Still a great gameplan drawn up by the coaching staff and great execution by the Mount's players. Jeremy Goode was clearly the catalyst and he continues to lead this team. His speed up and down the court is a tremendous asset and his ability to get his teammates involved has been a key to this late season run. Kelly Beidler followed up his quarterfinal performance with another top-notch effort. His size and athletic ability are uncommon at this level and he played within himself at most times and really made a difference in the game. He finished with 15 points and 6 rebounds and some key offensive buckets. Jean Cajou was also stellar off the bench. He continued his hot shooting (4-of-6, 2-of-3 from deep) and threw the dagger at the end. Also important was the play of Will Holland. He came through with 11 and it was good to see the sophomore from Houston have a good day after some recent struggles. He's just got to keep shooting.
The key to the basketball game for me, was the way the Mount matched every punch the Colonials threw. MSM jumped out to an early lead but Bobby Mo answered and knotted the game at 14. The Mount answered with one of those big offensive buckets from Beidler, a three, and then a Goode three in transition and a Will Holland pullup jumper put the lead back at eight. RMU never got the game back to one possesion after that.
They did try and after the Mount extended the lead to double figures to open the second half, the Colonials scored seven straight to make it a 44-40 deficit. But the Mount picked itself up and went on a 9-1 run to basically end the game right then and there. Holland's jumper started the run, a layup from Sam Atupem (who played strong inside) and Cajou's long range three came before Gary Wallace's free throw. But Markus Mitchell scored to make it 53-41 off a Beidler assist. The lead was never less than double figs the rest of the way.
The Mount wore the Colonials down. It was obvious they were beaten and frustrated as I watched the final eight to ten minutes on TV. Seeing their fans desert them with about four minutes left was somewhat satisfying but in a way disappointing. Here was a team that had accomplished so much during the regular season being battered and beaten on its home floor and then having its fans, to which it had provided all the enjoyment all season take off for the exits. Maybe today's performance by the Colonials wasn't worth their cheers, but the season effort was worth those staying til the end.
Kudos to the many Mount fans in attendance today. Your presence was evident on the television. I'm sorry I wasn't along for the journey.
This late-season run (and it started well before the postseason) has been fun. It has seen the Mount play some very strong basketball. It has produced some very good moments and some very strong team and individual performances. This is a very young team that is on the verge on something very special. The run has been a glorious one, but it can't be complete, not yet. There is still more to be written.
It's over on Staten Island and Sacred Heart has pulled the upset. The Mount will head to Fairfield to take on the Pioneers for a right to represent the conference in the NCAA tournament. Tip off is Wednesday at 7pm and will be televised on ESPN2.