By Matt Parrino firstname.lastname@example.org
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Minutes before the Daemen men's basketball team was set to take the floor Friday against Goldey-Beacom on Day Two of the 2013 Knee Center of Western New York Tip-Off Classic, North Tonawanda's Aaron Davis felt the nerves.
"Before this game I was more nervous than I've ever been in my college career," Davis said.
That's because the Wildcats (2-0) were without starters Mark Coppola, Casey Sheehan and Kadeem Johnson — all rehabbing various injuries — and, in the case of Coppola and Sheehan, missing their identity.
"We knew we'd be without one starter going into the weekend, but then to lose two more starters after (Thursday's game against Ohio Valley University) makes it all that much more difficult," said Daemen associate head coach Mike Miranto. "The two that we lost — Mark and Casey — I mean everything we do, our entire style of play, revolves around them and their talents. … So we had to make some adjustments and slow it down a little bit, but the guys battled."
The Wildcats pulled off a 59-56 come-from-behind victory on the strength of junior Gerald Beverly's 18 points and 14 rebounds, and junior Jordan Greene's 18 points, 11 coming in the second half.
But Daemen got contributions from its entire team, including a full game, 40-minute effort from sophomore guard Supreme Hannah, 10 points and 18 rebounds from senior Uchechi Ogbonna and 28 minutes from Davis in only the fourth start of his college career.
Late in the game with the Wildcats clinging to a 57-56 advantage and on the heels of a 9-0 Lightning run, Davis, a defensive specialist, made arguably the biggest play of his Daemen career to secure the win for his team. He took the ball at the top of the key and, with the offense stagnant in recent minutes and the current play breaking down, he blew by his defender in the lane and finished at the rim with a clutch lay up.
Miranto struggled to hold back tears after the game when he spoke about Davis' play Saturday night. He's been there with Davis through his injury rehab, and he knows how much work the junior has put in to become a contributing member of the team who could make big time plays.
"That was a huge basket, a huge play," Miranto said. "He's a character guy and he's been waiting his turn. I'm getting emotional talking about it. He's been waiting his turn to make a big play for us and he made it today for sure."
Davis deflected all praise following the game, saying he was just happy to be able to help his team win. He was more concerned about talking about the team and its accomplishment.
"Today showed the resilience of our team. We don't rely on just one guy," Davis said. "It's a whole team effort. We rely on all five guys and on the bench for energy. Our team as a whole, there is no weak link, and I think that's what makes us so special."
Daemen is back in action this weekend when they hit the West Coast for a pair of games in San Diego. First up is the University of California-San Diego at 7 p.m. Friday night.Follow @tonanewssports and sports editor @MattParrino on Twitter for complete local sports coverage.