Tournament MVP Corey McAdam sank two free throws with :07 left Saturday to complete a second-half rally for third-seeded Nazareth as the Golden Flyers edged top-seeded St. John Fisher, 65-64, in the championship game of the Empire 8 Conference Tournament for mens basketball.
The victory earned the Golden Flyers their second conference championship in three years and an automatic berth to the NCAA Division III Tournament. Nazareth improved to 18-9 overall, while Fisher dropped to 22-5. The Cardinals will likely receive an at-large berth to the NCAAs when tournament bids are announced Monday.
"Its just awesome," said McAdam, who scored 22 of his game-high 26 points in the second half. "It wasnt as much about winning the conference championship as much as it was about not wanting to stop playing with these guys."
"Our senior leader just refused to allow us to lose," said Nazareths first-year coach Kevin Broderick, who coached 13 seasons at Oswego without winning a conference title.
McAdam also scored 27 points in Fridays 75-72 overtime win over Ithaca and moved into second place on Nazareths all-time scoring list with 1,844 points.
The end of McAdams brilliant Nazareth career seemed near when Fisher built a 12-point lead, 54-42, following a pair of free throws by Michael Wopperer (18 points) with 9:29 left. Fishers lead was still at 10, 56-46, after Jordan Gettings made two free throws with 8:26 left.
Nazareth rallied with a 13-2 scoring run that ended with a three-pointer by McAdam to give Nazareth a 59-58 lead with 4:22 to go. Fisher answered with a baskets by Matt Newman and Wopperer to regain the lead at 62-59, but Nazareth came back again with baskets by Dan Waldbillig and Phil Scaffidi to go up 64-63 with :50 left.
Newman scored again for Fisher with :39 left to give the Cardinals a one-point lead, 64-63. After McAdam missed a jumper for Nazareth, he secured the offensive rebound and eventually was fouled by Fishers Will Cornett with :07 left. McAdam coolly sank both ends of the one-and-one free throw situation for the winning points. Fisher had one last shot, but Connor Henderson misfired on a hurried three-point attempt as time expired.
"Im happy especially for Coach Broderick," said McAdam. "He coached for 13 years at Oswego and came close to (winning conference titles). Now hes finally got one."
The game was hard-fought throughout. Nazareth led by three, 24-21, following a basket by Waldbillig with 3:38 to play in the first half. Fisher came back behind a pair of three-pointers by Jordan Koch to take a six-point lead, 33-27, late in the half before settling for a four-point halftime lead, 33-29, as Jason Corletta scored for Nazareth as time expired.
Fisher came out strong in the second half, outscoring Nazareth 17-11 over the first 10 minutes to go up 52-40 before Nazareth rallied.
Nazareth made 24 of 57 shots in the game (42.1 percent) and 13 of 17 free throws. Fisher went 26 for 55 from the field and 9 for 17 from the line. Fisher had a 38-31 rebounding advantage. Scaffidi finished with 11 points for Nazareth and a team-high nine rebounds.
Nazareth will be making its seventh NCAA Tournament appearance. The Golden Flyers last made it in 2008 and lost to Rhode Island college, 77-73, in the first round.