CALDWELL, N.J. –Sophomore forward Derek Johnson (Conshohocken, Pa./Atlantic Christian) drained a 3-pointer from the right wing with 0.7 left on the clock to send the Philadelphia University men's basketball team back to the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) Tournament championship game as the Rams defeated the University of the Sciences 59-56 in a semifinal round game Friday afternoon at Caldwell College.
Philadelphia—the fifth-ranked team in the March 5 NCAA Division II East Region Rankings—is now 24-6 overall.
The Rams are in the CACC final for the second straight season and will face Holy Family for the title on Saturday, March 8 at 4 p.m. at Caldwell. The two schools were each earned a win on their home floor during the regular season.
The 3-pointer by Johnson, an All-CACC third team selection, capped a strong second half in which he scored 11 of team-high 18 points. This is the second time this season that Johnson hit a game-winning shot. On Feb. 11, Johnson hit a right elbow jumper at the buzzer to give the Rams a 79-78 win at Chestnut Hill.
Trailing 56-54 after Tyrone Mann-Barnes hit a fall-away 3-pointer as the shot clock wound down to put USciences (17-11) ahead 56-54 with 1:06 left, sophomore guard Andre Gibbs (Smyrna, Del./Smyrna) answered 14 seconds later with a 6-footer runner in the lane to tie the score at 56.
On the Devils' next possession Patrick Connaghan was looking for a cutter along the baseline, but his bounce pass ended up hitting the back wall of the Newman Center giving the ball back to the Rams with 25 seconds on the clock.
The Rams' final play saw Gibbs run the clock down to six seconds before feeding the ball to Johnson. Johnson did the rest, taking the shot after a pump fake on a Devils' defender.
Sophomore forward Peter Alexis (Wilkes-Barre, Pa./Holy Redeemer) finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds, 11 points and seven rebounds coming after halftime, for his team-leading 14th double-double of the year. Alexis—an All-CACC first team pick—needs 19 points to reach 1,000 in his career.
Junior guard Nick Schlitzer (Pottsville, Pa./Pottsville) contributed 11 points. Gibbs ended up with nine points and five assists.
The Devils opened the game by outscoring the Rams 14-3, capped by a Garret Kerr lay-up, in the opening six minutes. USciences shot 6-of-8, including makes on its first five attempts, while Philadelphia was 1-for-5.
After Philadelphia closed the gap to 20-11 on a straightaway trey by senior guard Nick Christian (Bensalem, Pa./Bensalem), the Devils would go on a 10-2 run to take a game-high 17-point lead when Sho DaSilva connected on an 18-footer with 4:54 left in the first half.
The Rams dominated the next nine minutes with 20 of the 22 points that were scored in that stretch to take their first lead of the game (33-32) on an Alexis put back from the left block with 15:49 left in the game. During the run, Philadelphia found its shooting touch by going 8-of-12, while forcing USciences to miss all nine field goal attempts and commit three turnovers.
Kerr paced the Devils with a game-high 25 points and six rebounds, while Mann-Barnes had 11 points.