Tonawanda News — With a spot in the USCAA national championship game on the line Thursday night in a late 10:45 p.m. tip in Uniontown, Pa., the Daemen men’s basketball team got off to a slow start — by its standards anyway.
The No. 3 seedWildcats shot 41 percent from the field and only 1 of 9 from 3-point rangein the first half, and took a slim, two-point lead to the locker room. But in the second half, Daemen had an offensive explosion, outscoring No. 2 seed Ave Maria College 65-39 en route to a runaway, 100-72 semifinal win.
Daemen associate head coach Mike Miranto was still recovering shortly after the game from the fast-paced action.
“I’m still winded from watching it,” he said. “I’m still in awe of that offensive performance. We shot 66 percent from the field in the second half and we finally got our running game going. We’ve been playing up tempo all season long and we knew they’d try to make it a half court game. We got out in transition and everything fell in line after that.”
At halftime, Miranto said that he and head coach Don Silveri prepared the team to grind out the win by making some half court offense adjustments and some defensive changes, making the second-half result even more jaw-dropping.
Jordan Greene has been lights out for the Wildcats (27-5) late in the season and his sizzling shooting continued against the Gyrenes. He scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half, going a perfect 5 for 5 from behind the 3-point arc, this after a 5 for 5 performance in the first round against the Apprentice School.
Miranto said everyone on the team is trying not to pay too much attention Greene’s play for fear on jinxing the sharpshooter.
“It’s kind of a like a pitcher with a no hitter,” he said. “We’re not talking a lot about it right now. We feel like he’s like a starter and obviously a quality player. The run he is putting together in this toournament is something special.”
Casey Sheehan led the Wilcats once again in scoring with a game-high 20 points, while Kadeem Johnson, Daemen’s all-around workhorse, scored 14 points and had a game-high 11 rebounds to record the double-double. Johnson’s defense on Ave Maria’s Kiel Lewis was outstanding, Miranto said, as the guard was held to only eight points — half of his season average.
Gerald Beverly had 15 points and six rebounds, Daemen out-rebounded the Gyrenes 50-30 and point guard Mark Coppola finished with seven points and a game-high five steals.
The Wildcats will face Rochester College on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. in the national championship game.