Tonawanda News —
AMHERST — There are big games every season, at every level of basketball across the country. Some are instant classics, but most games fail to live up to the hype.
Friday night was one of those landmark games for the Daemen men's basketball team.
The Wildcats were seeking an unbelievable 30th straight win at home and were hosting a team with a significant size advantage. Long Island University Post knocked off Daemen, 93-85, earlier in the season and the Wildcats, in their first season playing in NCAA Division II's East Coast Conference, needed a win to keep pace with the top teams in the league.
Daemen head coach Don Silveri, in his 25th season on the Wildcats' bench, said afterwards: "That was one of the best games to ever take place in our gym."
After a slow start that led to a 13-point advantage for LIU Post in the first half, the Wildcats came storming back in the second, shooting 61 percent from the field in the final 20 minutes to secure a 94-91 come-from-behind win over the Pioneers. Daemen had five players score in double figures and Silveri said, in crunch time, his four seniors answered the bell.
"When the game was on the line the seniors stepped up. They all did. Those guys refuse to lose," he said. "It's a testament to the seniors and the team in general. Everybody contributed, and I couldn't be happier."
LIU Post dominated the glass in the first half, grabbing nine offensive rebounds and punishing the Wildcats in the paint on both ends of the floor. Wildcats senior Kadeem Johnson scored 13 of his team-high 19 points in the first half to help keep Daemen in the game.
"They had some real strong guys inside that don't back down and are real physical. They crash every time and you can't step in that paint without getting banged around," said Johnson, who also had seven rebounds and four assists. "They play tough, but I tried to stay with it — keep crashing the boards and try and match their physicality, which kept us in it for a while. We took a step back early but we stepped it up in the second half."