BY CORY NIDOH
Assistant Sports Editor
The ESU Warriors advanced to their fifth straight PSAC Final Four after defeating the Millersville Marauders 78-55 in the Quarterfinal matchupat the packed Koehler Fieldhouse.
The Warriors (26-1) headed into the game as the No. 2 team in all of Division II, and were put to the test early by the visiting Marauders (13-14).
The game was a back-and-forth battle in the first half as ESU couldn’t get into a rhythm against Millersville’s defense.
The Warriors and Marauders exchanged baskets for most of the opening half until the Warriors managed to get on a run that produced a ten point lead.
The lead was due to sophomore guard Jamal Nwaniemeka who hit back-to-back shots from beyond the arc followed by junior guard Whis Grant.
Then, Millersville’s Head Coach Fred Thompson was called for a double technical and tossed out of the game with 1:57 left in the first half.
Junior guard Matt Tobin knocked down two of his three free throws to increase the lead.
Yet, the feisty Millersville team remained relentless when they cut the deficit to six, 38-32, as half time approached.
The second half was a different story for ESU as they got momentum on their side in front of their faithful.
“We saw a little bit of a different defense where they had a 1-3-1 which they played the other night. Early on we got some shots that were good looks for us but maybe a little out of rhythm maybe because we didn’t see that defense. But once we settled down and got some better opportunities off of it, we made some very good plays,” said Warriors’ Head Coach Jeff Wilson.
The Warriors were able to maintain more of a lead as they held a double digit lead throughout most of the second half.
Two alley-oop connections got the fans to their feet as Nwaniemeka, who led all scorers with 21 points, flew high to the rim and caught passes from Will Brown and Whis Grant to spark the Warriors offense that was sputtering in the first half.
After the two exciting plays, the Warriors never looked back as they got up big 71-56 with a little over two minutes left before holding on to the win.
Grant landed 16 points as he shot 4-for-10 from the field and 4-for-9 from downtown.
Tobin had himself a double-double as he recorded a career high 14 assists to go along with 11 points.
Junior guards Will Brown and Lamont Tillery added nine points each off the bench as the Warriors were able to advance to the semifinals of the PSAC Championship Tournament.
The next time you can see the Warriors in action will be this Saturday, March 8 as they host the number three seed in the West, Mercyhurst after the Lakers beat IUP Tuesday night to earn a trip to East Stroudsburg. The game is set for 3:30 tip-off as the Warriors continue their run in the PSAC Tournament.
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