Tonawanda News —
Like a 15-round title fight, both teams wanted to stand and throw big punches until the final bell. The Pioneers held a 47-45 at halftime and both teams came out in the second half answering every big shot their opponent threw. Neither team held a lead larger than five points in the final 20 minutes.
Daemen took the lead early in the second half, starting off on an 8-2 run. But the Pioneers answered back and retook the lead at 77-75 on a 3-pointer from PJ Torres, who scored a game-high 23 points, with 6:05 left to play.
The teams went back and forth and were deadlocked at 85-85 with just under two minutes to play when the Daemen seniors took over. Uchechi Ogbonna ripped a steal away from LIU Post's Vaughn Allen and found his point guard Mark Coppola, who turned and fired a perfect half-court pass to a streaking Johnson for a transition layup to give Daemen an 87-85 lead.
On the next possession junior Gerald Beverly, who finished with 17 points and eight rebounds, made his fifth block of the night on a driving Pioneer player to send the Wildcats on the break the other way. Coppola, who finished with eight points and eight assists, grabbed the rebound and turned and fired once again to Johnson, who found a trailing Ogbonna for the two-handed dunk.
The Wildcats made 5 of 6 free throws in the final :35 to secure the win.
Senior Casey Sheehan made a number of big plays for the Wildcats, finishing with 17 points and four assists. Ogbonna scored 18 and junior Jordan Greene finished with 12.
With his 17 points, Beverly passed the 1,000-point milestone for his career. The 6-foot-7 center was excited about his accomplishment, but said getting the win was even better.
"This is huge. That's probably one of the best teams in the conference. To take them down is a huge step for us," Beverly said. "The fans had this place rocking, oh my gosh. It was amazing. That was probably one of the loudest games I've had here at Daemen."