SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Junior forward Derek Johnson (Conshohocken, Pa./Atlantic Christian) scored a team-high 16 points for the Philadelphia University men's basketball team, but it was American International who scored the final six points as the Yellow Jackets defeated the Rams 58-53 in the first round of the NCAA Division II East Region Tournament Saturday afternoon in Butova Gym.
The eighth-seeded Rams wrap up their season with an overall record of 24-8. Philadelphia won its fourth Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference title and qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the 34th time.
American International, the region's top seed and tournament host school, improves to 25-6 and will face Southern Connecticut—an 88-75 winner over Bridgeport—in the second round on Sunday, March 15 at 7:30 p.m.
American International's Bobby Harris, who scored a game-high 17 points, gave the Yellow Jackets a 54-53 advantage hitting a layup coming out of a timeout with 36 seconds left. On Philadelphia's next possession, Schlitzer had hit 3-point attempt from the right wing blocked by Trahmier Burrell, who also grabbed the rebound.
With 13 seconds remaining, Harris drained a pair of free throws to make the score 56-53 in favor of the Yellow Jackets. The Rams had a chance to send the game to overtime, but Johnson's game-tying 3-point attempt from the left wing was off-target and the Yellow Jackets' Marcus Porter ended up with the carom. Porter, who had 13 points, sealed the game with two successful free throws with two seconds to play.
Coming out of the under-16 media timeout, Philadelphia came to life with a 10-3 run to take a 12-10 lead on a free throw by junior guard Andre Gibbs (Smyrna, Del./Smyrna) at the 12:18 mark of the first half.
After American International briefly regained the lead (13-12) with a Cameron Dobbs triple, Philadelphia rattled off 12 consecutive points, five from Schlitzer, to take a game-high 11-point lead (24-13) on an Alexis layup at the 8:09 mark. The Rams shot 4-of-6 from the field, while the Yellow Jackets were 0-of-4 and turned the ball over twice.
The Rams held the lead until the Yellow Jackets opened the second half with an 8-0 run to take a 34-33 lead with 2:01 gone. Alexis poured in six points during an 8-2 surge that allowed Philadelphia to regain a six-point cushion (44-38) at the 9:20 mark. American International came right back with 10 of the next 14 points, six from Harris and four from Burrell, to knot the game up at 48 on a Harris 3-pointer with 6:44 to play.
After Schlitzer drained a triple to put the Rams up 51-48, the Yellow Jackets scored four straight points to take a 52-51 lead. Alexis gave Philadelphia its final lead of the game (53-52) with a put back basket from the left block with 1:33 left.
Burrell added 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Dobbs scored 10 points.
Philadelphia ended up shooting 40.4 percent (21-of-52) from the field, 52.0 percent (13-of-25) in the first half. The Yellow Jackets hit 40.0 percent (22-of-55) overall.