Tonawanda News — AMHERST — The Daemen men’s basketball team extended their home winning streak to 27 games Friday night with a 69-65 win over Saint Thomas Aquinas College at Lumsden Gymnasium.
The Wildcats (11-6, 8-3 ECC) have now won four straight games and seven of their last eight overall.
Daemen led by as many as 18 points in the game but the Spartans made a relentless comeback attempt down the stretch. The Wildcats committed 13 turnovers and Saint Thomas Aquinas made them pay with 17 second-chance points.
With 43 seconds remaining Spartans guard Marcus Henderson, who finished with a game-high 20 points, hit a 3-pointer from the left corner to make it 64-62. But Daemen’s Gerald Beverly turned away Saint Thomas Aquinas on the next possession with his ninth block of the game, and the Wildcats converted at the free throw line to close out the win.
“There’s going to be two or three times a year when you don’t have it and you have to sort of buck up and get a win,” Daemen associate head coach Mike Miranto said about the Wildcats’ play in the second half to let the Spartans back into the game. “To not play at our top level and still pull out a win is encouraging. We started settling for a lot of jump shots and got away from the fast paced, aggressive style we’ve become accustomed to.”
Beverly, who leads Daemen in points (18.1) and rebounds (10.2) per game, was outstanding in his 32 minutes. The junior neared a triple-double, finishing with a team-high 15 points and 10 rebounds.
When Saint Thomas Aquinas coach Tobin Anderson spoke with Miranto at shoot around on Thursday morning, he asked the coach to not let Beverly block any Spartans’ shots in Friday night’s game. The 6-foot-7 Beverly is starting to make a name for himself in the East Coast Conference.
“Even a night like tonight where Gerald struggled a little offensively, a lot because they double teamed him on every catch, he dominated the game on the defensive end. Nine blocks — those are game-changing plays,” Miranto said. “He had a critical block late in the game and he’s just blossoming into an all-around star.”
The Wildcats had two more players in double figures as Casey Sheehan netted 14 points and North Tonawanda’s Aaron Davis scored 11 off the bench.
Daemen out-rebounded the Spartans 49-43, and Kadeem Johnson finished with a team-high 12 boards while point guard Mark Coppola grabbed nine.
The Wildcats are back in action at home Sunday when they host Mercy College at 3 p.m.