Men’s Basketball Narrowly Misses National Championship

Head Coach Parrish Petry and the bench watch during the first half of the USCAA Final.
Head Coach Parrish Petry and the bench watch during the first half of the USCAA Final.

Sophomore forward Trent Thomas turned in one of the all-time best USCAA Tournament scoring performances, but #6 Penn State York couldn't quite pull off the upset of #1 Berkeley College of New York, winner of 53 straight games and now three straight USCAA Division II National Championships. Parrish Petry's squad should be able to hold their heads high after pushing to the brink the most dominant team in USCAA Division II over the past few years.

After trailing for much of the game, York pulled ahead with minutes to play but couldn't put away Berkeley, whose star hit a jumper less than a second to play to send the game to overtime, where Berkeley ultimately prevailed, 80–76.

Thomas poured in 40 points, shooting an incredible 17 of 25 from the floor, including 6 of 11 from three-point range. Thomas added 9 rebounds and was the go-to man for York's offense all night. After the game, the sophomore was named to the all-tournament team.

Sophomore center Richard Grant dominated the paint for stretches of the game, scoring 18 points and pulling down 9 rebounds, and was also named to the all-tournament team.

York also got important contributions from captain and senior point guard Lucas Jewell and freshman Matt Achille. Jewell's usual shooting touch eluded him, but he was still the motor behind York's offense, recording 9 assists. Jewell maintained composure and his vision and ball-handling managed to break Berkeley's unrelenting press over and over to find Thomas or Grant for scoring chances. Achille provided 30 minutes of savvy play off the bench, breaking up Berkeley's offensive flow and handling the ball in key situations.

USCAA All-American Massiah Merritt led Berkeley with 28 points and was named the tournament MVP.

The best game of the tournament started out as a back-and-forth affair, with the lead changing hands a number of times over the first 10 minutes. Berkeley then pulled ahead and was up by as many as 13 near the end of the first half, before York closed the gap to go into the break down 9.

With 12 minutes to play, York found themselves behind by 10, 57–47. Sparked by a Thomas three-pointer, York then went on a 14-0 run to take a 61–57 lead. Each time Berkeley would try to step out to guard Thomas, it seemed he'd answer with a three from even longer-range, or else cut inside for the feed from Jewell.

The two teams again traded leads until York found itself up 68–67 with three minutes left in regulation. Battling cramps and fatigue, York's offense went cold for the next couple of minutes, but Berkeley was unable to take advantage and put any points on the board either.

With 43 seconds left and the score still 68–67, Berkeley brought the ball up the court out of a timeout. With the shot clock running down, Jewell stole the ball from Merritt and got it to Achille who was promptly fouled. The freshman hit the first of two free-throws, putting York up by two points with 12 seconds to play.

Berkeley managed to get Merritt the ball and he rose for a fadeaway jumper with just under a second to play. Without enough time to inbound the ball and get a shot off, it appeared the game would be heading to overtime.

Penn State York Head Coach Parrish Petry thought otherwise and called a timeout. With his team in the bonus, he drew up a genious play which got Jewell fouled before York even inbounded the ball, sending him to the line for a chance at a one-and-one with 0.9 seconds remaining.

Jewell's free throw missed the mark, but Berkeley only had two men under the basket to rebound and Jewell got into the lane to fight for his own rebound. He was promptly fouled, again sending him to the line just before time expired. The senior was unable to convert, and the game went into to overtime tied at 69.

Berkeley's athleticism and fresher legs were apparent in overtime, and they led for most of the period. A Thomas three-pointer and layup cut the lead to two at 78–76, but that was as close as York would get, with two more Berkeley free throws bringing the final score to 80–76.

Penn State York was able to celebrate the success of getting deeper into the USCAA Tournament and reaching the National Championship Game for the first time in program history, and can only hope to build on their experience and perhaps get a chance to knock off Berkeley next year.