SELINSGROVE, Pa. – It came down to the final minutes of the game, but the Susquehanna men’s basketball team is playoff bound after an 80-71 defeat of Catholic on Saturday evening.
After narrowly missing the Landmark Conference playoffs one year ago, the men will now make a return trip to the tournament, although the team’s opponent is yet to be determined with one more league game remaining on the regular season slate.
Tensions ran high for the entire 40 minutes of play, with a combined 40 fouls that included a technical against Catholic (16-8, 6-7).
Despite leading by as many as 13 points, Susquehanna (14-9, 8-5) could not put the game completely out of reach until sinking eight free throws over the final 1:07 of the game.
For the second straight game, four players netted double figures for SU, led by 19 from Spenser Spencer (Seattle, Wash./Lakeside). J.T. Wilson (Sparta, N.J./Pope John XXIII Regional) was not far behind with 18 while Tony Seldon (Bloomfield, Conn./Northwest Catholic) had 12 to complement his team-best nine rebounds. Finally, Harley Sellinger (Mill Hall, Pa./Central Mountain) added 11 points and eight rebounds in his 27 minutes of action.
SU lead for the first 18:15 of the game, thanks in part to a 10-2 game-opening run with baskets from three different players.
While Catholic pulled within two (19-17) with 10:51 on the clock in the half, five unanswered points put the Crusaders back up by five (24-17).
That lead got as high as nine points, 31-22, thanks to a Wally Rutecki (Springfield, Pa./Springfield) free throw five minutes later but Catholic’s Nate Koenig made a layup at the 1:45 mark to knot the game at 35.
Despite tying the game, Susquehanna never let the Cardinals take the outright lead and SU was able to take a four-point halftime lead (39-35), thanks to two free throws and a Seldon jumper in the closing 1:23 of first-half play.
Catholic tied the game twice in the first four-plus minutes of the second half before Susquehanna’s offense began to regain momentum. Wilson’s jumper at 12:26 made it a 10-point contest (56-46) and a Mike Perillo layup at 9:47 gave SU a game-high 13-point edge (62-49).
The Cardinals would not go away, though, as they brought the lead back down to just three (71-68) after a Steve Limberiou trey with 1:07 on the clock.
That was followed, though, by those crucial SU free throws in the closing minute that finally put Catholic away for good.
Susquehanna closes out the regular season next Saturday with a 7:30 p.m. home game against Juniata on Senior Night.