This past weekend the men’s basketball team experienced the highest and lowest points of the season. F&M entered the postseason conference tournament looking to capture their fourth consecutive Centennial Conference championship. After a very emotional win against Muhlenberg on Friday night, F&M was set to face off against Dickinson, a team they had just beat by 30 points one week ago. Unfortunately, this time the result was different and now the men’s basketball team will have to wait until Monday to see if their season will continue.
If there was something positive the men’s basketball team could take out of the conference tournament, it would be their performance in the semi-final game against Muhlenberg. The game was a close defensive battle up until the final whistle and it was evident that F&M was playing with toughness, resilience and heart. Jon Salandra got things going for the Dips offensively in the first half and finished up as the game’s leading scorer with 15 points. Salandra who was one rebound away from a double-double, came up with a huge block with less than four minutes left to help swing the momentum in F&M’s favor.
Now, it was Hayk Gyokchyan’s turn to take over the game. Gyokchyan and the Diplomats were not going to go out without a fight. Down by five with less than two minutes left, you could tell that Gyokchyan wanted the ball in his hands. Hayk hit back-to-back three pointers to erase the five-point deficit and put F&M in the lead.
Down by one with 32 seconds left, Muhlenburg had the ball with the shot clock turned off. Everyone in the gym knew that Malique Killing, the leading scorer in the Centennial Conference this season, was going take the final shot. Unfortunately for him, junior Matt Porter stood in his way. Porter had shut down Killing the entire game holding him to 10 points, nine below his season average. With time winding down, Killing drove to the basket but Porter’s solid defense forced Killing to take a difficult layup and he missed. Salandra snatched the rebound and sealed the game for F&M.
F&M advanced to their 13th conference championship game in the last 19 years after defeating Muhlenburg 48-46. The Diplomats came into the game hoping to capture their eighth league championship. When it comes to postseason play, everyone is fighting to survive and advance and it makes it that much harder to beat your opponents. F&M found that out the hard way on Saturday night against Dickinson. After demolishing Dickinson at the Mayser Center just last week, F&M had to be feeling confident heading into the championship game. This time around Dickinson had different plans.
Right from the start of the game Dickinson proved to be too much for F&M to handle. Although the score was close for the first 10 minutes of the game, Dickinson went on an 11-3 run to close out the half, leading F&M 33-25. Everyone in the Mayser Center was hoping F&M would come out of halftime with the energy to make a comeback. They did, but Dickinson matched their energy and took it a step further going on an 11-3 run to start the second half. Dickinson never looked back from there.
F&M simply just could not make the shots when they needed it the most. They only made two of out 18 three-point shots and shot 24 percent for the game. Dickinson does deserve credit for playing good defense, but F&M just missed some shots they usually make. Dickinson also shot very well from the foul line, hitting 19-24 shots while F&M only hit 12-21.
Although this was a very disappointing defeat for the Diplomats, the season is not over yet. F&M still had a chance to get into the NCAA tournament with an at-large bid.
If they do enter the NCAA tournament, F&M will be tough opponent for anyone, as they have reached the Elite Eight in two of the past three seasons and the Final Four in 2009.
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