Lafayette will host the men’s basketball Patriot League Championship game against #6 American 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 11, at Kirby Sports Center.
All fans are encouraged to wear white in support of the four-seeded Leopards, who defeated top-seeded Bucknell 80-74 Sunday in the Patriot League semifinals at Sojka Pavilion in Lewisburg, Pa.
Additionally, Bucknell is the first one-seed in Patriot League history to get knocked out of the tournament before reaching the championship game. Tickets for the finale are sold out except for season ticket holders, who are to call the box office as soon as possible, (610) 330-5471.
The five Lafayette starters scored all 80 points for the Leopards on Sunday, led by a second straight 23-point performance from Nick Lindner ’17 and 21 points from Dan Trist ’15. Joey Ptasinski ’15 connected on six of his seven attempts from the floor on his way to 18 points, his highest output since he dropped 18 in the Patriot League opener at Army, while Bryce Scott ’16 and captain Seth Hinrichs ’15 chipped in with 11 and seven points, respectively.
“We didn’t come out in the second half the way we drew it up, but Joey [Ptasinski] hit a big three to cut it to seven and I think that sparked us. We did a great job from there on in,” head coach Fran O’Hanlon said. “Our guys did a great job in the second half to not only get back in the game, but win it.”
The Maroon and White sunk 26 of 49 from the field (53.1%), 7 of 16 from three-point range (43.8%), and 21 of 24 from the foul line (87.5%). The team committed just four turnovers compared to 15 assists, led by seven from Lindner and four from Scott.
Lafayette picked up right where it left off on Thursday evening, hitting back-to-back shots from beyond the arc in the 17th minute to take an 8-2 lead early. Six back from the Bison, though, knotted the game at eight at the 15-minute mark and a triple from Thomas gave the Bison their first lead a minute later at 11-10.
Both sides traded baskets throughout the midway point of the half as Lafayette erased a six-point deficit to tie it at 18 at the 8:47 mark. A bucket from Hass off a feed from Steven Kaspar at the 5:30 mark put the Bison up four, 24-20, and a finish through a foul from Thomas made it a five-point game at 27-22 with four minutes remaining.
Lafayette’s response came with less than three minutes to play in the half as an offensive board from Michael Hoffman ’17 led to an open three from Scott to tie the game at 27. A 5-2 mini-run from the Bison made it 34-29 going into the final possession of the half. Hinrichs converted on a floater in the lane at the buzzer to make Bucknell’s lead just three at 34-31 into the intermission.
Bucknell came out of the break with eight of the first 10 points to force a Lafayette timeout at the 18:13 mark, in front 41-33. Lafayette responded with threes from Ptasinski and Hinrichs, and a finish through a foul from Trist finished off a 10-2 run to tie it at 43 with 15:30 to play.
After over three minutes without a point from either side, a pair of free throws from Trist gave the Leopards their first lead of the second half at the 12:30 mark, 45-44. The senior finished above the rim at the eight-minute mark to put the Leopards in front, 51-50, and Lafayette took a 53-50 edge into the media timeout.
A pair of jumpers from Trist took the game under the six-minute mark with the Maroon and White on top, 57-53, and a pair of threes from both sides made it 65-61 Leopards with 3:57 left. A tough triple from Hass at the 2:24 mark pulled the Bison within one possession at 69-66, but a finish at the rim from Trist pushed it back to 71-66 with less than two minutes remaining.
The Leopards sent through eight of their nine foul shots in the final minute to stifle any chance at a Bucknell comeback.