MARIETTA, OH (WROC) — Rochester showed its resilience when faced with a challenge and in the process, moved into the second round of the NCAA Division III men’s basketball championships. The Yellowjackets defeated Eastern University of Pennsylvania, 88-65, at Ban Johnson Arena on the campus of Marietta College. The win matches Rochester against host Marietta at 7:15 pm on Saturday evening. Marietta is ranked second in the nation in the current D3hoops.com poll.
The Yellowjackets are a Pool C (at-large) participant this year. Four University Athletic Association teams made the field, three as Pool C entrants. UR is now 18-8 heading into round two on Saturday evening. Eastern was making its initial trip to the tournament. The Eagles are a Pool C entry from the MAC Commonwealth Conference. Eastern was the top seed in its league, but was upended in the conference championship game by Hood College of Maryland.
Brian Amabilino Perez scored a career-high 29 points. He hit 10 of 13 from the floor, nine of 10 at the foul line. He grabbed nine rebounds and handed out three assists. Trent Noordsij scored 18 points and collected seven rebounds. Ross Gang had 14 points, eight assists, and seven boards. Matt Wiele scored nine points and blocked four shots. Dan Masino grabbed four rebounds and scored four points. C.J. Amsellem and Matt Niemczura scored six apiece.
For Eastern (21-6), William Blet scored 28 points, had four rebounds, and one block before fouling out late. Sam Gallardo scored 13 points, Jaron Fairweather had 11, and Draig Cooley scored nine. The Eagles shot 61% from the floor in the first half. That helped because they cut an 18-point deficit (37-19 with less than eight minutes left in the half) down to six, 50-44, by halftime. They opened the second half with a three-pointer from Fairweather at the top of the key. That made it a one-possession game with more than 19 minutes to play.
UR got down to business, similar to the first half. Gang scored on a putback, then drove for a layup. Amsellem scored off the right block and the lead was back to nine. Gallardo got a layup, as did Blet. After two Gang free throws, Blet dunked the ball, bring the Eastern fan base back into the game (58-53 UR with 12:11 left).
Rochester challenged shots and controlled the backboards. Eastern went six minutes without a field goal – just four free throws from Blet. After his dunk, UR ran off 15 straight points – from four players. Amabilino Perez scored eight of the 15. Wiele had three points, Niemczura and Gang two each. Eastern finally cashed in a field goal attempt – Cooley’s trey from right of the key. It started a mini-six-point run that pulled the Eagles within 75-63 with five minutes remaining. The upper classmen stretched out then last five minutes to seal the victory: Noordsij hit five free throws, Amabilino Perez scored six – two layups and 2-2 at the line, and Masino hit a runner in the lane.
That good shooting touch by Eastern in the later portion of the first half disappeared in the second half. Eastern made six field goals (in 27 shots) after 17 of 28 in the first period. The team finished at .418 (23-55). Rochester shot .593 for the game (32-54). The Yellowjackets sank only three treys, but they all came from Noordsij at crucial times: he connected from the right corner three minutes in to push the lead to 11-4, then from the left corner three minutes later to put the lead at 22-12. Finally, his trey from the right corner gave UR its biggest first half lead at 37-19 with 7:52 left in the first half. UR scored 58 points in the paint.