The “Shootout at the OK Coral,” a NASCAR race at Talladega
and the NFL's West Coast Offense are just some of the images that come to mind
when trying to describe Union's two wins in last
weekend's Liberty League basketball tournament, which was held at top-seeded Hobart
College. The fourth seeded Dutchmen played inspired
basketball as they knocked off the Statesmen, 77-74, and No. 3 Hamilton, 88-84,
to earn their second league title in the last four years and the programs'
third trip to the NCAA tournament.
BASKETBALL STAR BRIAN SCORDATO TO APPEAR ON ESPN TONIGHT (FEBRUARY 28) at 11:45
Junior forward Brian Scordato scored a career-high 34 points as the fourth-seeded Dutchmen defeated Hamilton, 88-84, in the championship game of Saturday's Liberty League Tournament. Three of those points came at the halftime buzzer as Scordato launched a 62-foot shot that turned a four-point Union lead into a seven-point cushion.
Barring something unforeseen, Brian's shot will appear tonight on ESPN's Sports Center in the final 15-minute segment entitled “Top 10 Plays of the Day.”
The Dutchmen, who are making their third-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament, travel to play Gwynedd-Mercy College in Philadelphia on Thursday at 7 p.m.
For directions, click the link below.
Junior forward Brian
Scordato (Mt. Kisco, NY) led an offense that saw
the Dutchmen combine for a two-game field goal percentage of .500 (56-of-112)
which included a three-point effort that saw the Garnet bury 29 of their 58
attempts from outside the arch (also 50.0%).
Scordato, who had a career-high 34 points in the 88-84 win over Hamilton
in the championship showdown, shot 61.5% from the field (16-of-26) and 60.0%
from outside the arch (nine-of-15) as he collected 50 points. Besides his incredible shooting, the 6'5
Horace Greeley graduate contributed 11 rebounds, seven assists and four steals
with just two turnovers in 73 minutes.
Scordato, who injured his ankle in a practice during the
Christmas break and missed three games, led a total team effort, which resulted
in a berth in the “Big Dance.” His
62-foot, three-quarter court basket at the buzzer turned a four-point advantage
into a 43-36 halftime lead against Hamilton, then, after Union had seen a
21-point lead with 8:04 remaining evaporate to a two point margin with 10
seconds left, Scordato calmly sank his two free throw opportunities to give
Union the title.
“I was praying I'd make one of the two so that the worse
that could happen is that we would go to overtime,” explained Scordato about
his thought process as he approached the line.
“After I made the first one I was playing with house money and the second
Eighth-year head coach Bob
Montana, who has led the Dutchmen to seven consecutive winning seasons, six
postseason invitations, two league championships and an overall record of
136-106, had this prospective on Scordato's three
“I always tell the kids that they (points) are all
important,” he said. “It doesn't matter
if they are scored in the beginning of the game, at the end of the game, or in
the middle, they all count.”
Scordato, however, wasn't the lone Union hero.
In Friday night's semi-final win over Hobart,
junior point guard Chris Murphy (Hastings-on-Hudson) came through with his second-buzzer
beater of the year to help lift the Dutchmen to a 77-74 win. It was Murphy's
driving layup off the inbounds pass from sophomore
backcourt mate Joe Mackey (Flushing, NY) with 1.9 seconds left that lifted Union over a
Statesmen team that had beaten the Dutchmen twice during the regular season.
“I haven't had a
buzzer-beater since my senior year in high school,” said the Dutchmen's
point guard, who earlier this year became just the sixth player in Union's long
history to surpass 300 assists and came into the game averaging just over six
points. “To have two in one year and to have one in a game of this
magnitude is every basketball player's dream.”
Murphy, who buried a three-pointer on January 18 to defeat
non-league rival Middlebury, 65-64, then proceeded to steal Hobart's
long inbounds pass and was fouled with 0.4 seconds showing. He calmly
converted both free throws to round out the final margin before senior forward Devon Bruce (Altamont, NY) ended the
game by picking off Hobart's final
pass down court.
“Coach challenged me,” explained Murphy after the
win. “We changed up how we were positioned after Hobart
called its time out and Joe got me the ball down low.”
The Dutchmen seem to be peaking at just the right time. Union, which is 16-11 overall, is 11-6 in
games decided by 10 points or less, 8-4 in games decided by five points or
less, and 5-4 in contests decided by four points or less. Most importantly, the Dutchmen go into the
NCAA tournament riding the crest of a four-game win streak with all four
contests being decided by seven points or less.
“People forget that we lost two key players off of last
year's team,” said Montana in
referring to forwards Imbrie Packard and Ryan Freundlich, who led the Dutchmen to a 20-win
season. “They didn't put up a lot of big
numbers, but we went from leading the league in field goal percentage allowed
the previous two seasons to last this year.
They also provided us with senior leadership.”
The team came together in the league championship
tournament. Junior guard John Cagianello
(Wethersfield, CT), who now has 1,359 career points…good for sixth on the
Dutchmen's all-time scoring list, netted 45 points, 19 vs. Hobart
and 26 vs. Hamilton, while Bruce had 13 points and nine rebounds in the two
games. Bruce now has 1,138 career
points, 13th all-time, and 650 rebounds, second to C.J. Rodgers
since 1980. Murphy, meanwhile, has 325
assists, one behind Union Hall of Fame member Bill Carmody.
Mackey, freshman forward Kyle Grimm (Sherrill, NY), senior guard T.J. Ramey (Ballston Spa, NY), freshman forward Delon McAllister (Irvington, NJ), and junior guard Jim Rahill (Buffalo, NY), were all vital
contributors to the Dutchmen's tournament championship.
“I am very pleased with the mental and physical
toughness we showed in this game,” continued Montana.
“Everyone really came through and did their jobs under very difficult
circumstances. Now we look forward to representing our league, our
program, and our college in the NCAA tournament.”
Cagianello goes into the NCAA
tournament as the Dutchmen's leading scorer with an average of 16.3 while Bruce
(13.6) and Scordato (11.8) are next.
Mackey is averaging 9.3 points while Murphy is at 7.4 with a team-high
3.6 assist average. He also has a 2.1
assist-to-turnover average. Meanwhile,
Bruce leads the rebounding department with his 5.9 average while Scordato is
next at 5.4. Cagianello
is the Dutchmen's leading three-point field goal shooter with 64 while Mackey
has 47 and Scordato 40.