Knights’ sacrifice leads to wins
Resting against the wall in the office of Gannon University’s men’s basketball coach John Reilly are two signs that each bear a red circle and diagonal line superimposed over a word. The words: whining and excuses.
“Applies to just about everything in life, doesn’t it?” Reilly asked.
The provocative placards are meant as reinforcement for this season’s team mantra: “sacrifice brings success,” which the Knights decided on while working with noted sports psychologist Joe Carr in September.
Given that the Knights have equaled last year’s win total thanks to 23-point wins over Edinboro University Wednesday and California University of Pennsylvania Saturday, one can assume the Gannon men have made more sacrifices this season than the ancient Aztecs.
“It means every little thing that we can do for the team we will,” senior guard Oscar Macias said. “If that mean’s going to bed early or not going out on the weekend, we will”
In a tightly-packed PSAC West, Gannon currently stands alone in third place with a 14-3 overall record and 8-3 mark in conference play. Only Indiana University of Pennsylvania and Slippery Rock University stand a game ahead of Gannon, which will have a chance to make another statement 7:30 p.m. Wednesday when it hosts city rival Mercyhurst at the Hammermill Center.
Mercyhurst was among a host of teams that handed Gannon bitter defeats at the wire last season. The Lakers beat the Knights twice by a total of four points.
“Every one of those games we had a chance to win and for whatever reason we couldn’t finish,” Reilly said. “This year, we have been able to finish games.”
Those painful losses also included defeats to Edinboro and Cal last season, something the Knights made certain would not repeat itself last week.
“We make it a point to go out and make a statement every game,” Macias said. “We still feel like we aren’t given the respect that we’ve earned.”
Gannon broke away from Edinboro midway through the second half when it exploded for a 14-0 run after the Scots lost their main threat in center Bryan Theriot, whose his knee buckled while in the paint.
Gannon’s second-half run, which was led by eight points from reserve forward Algeron Torrence, sent the Knights to an 86-63 win.
Torrence finished with 24 points in 18 minutes. Torrence is one of five players who have led the Knights in scoring this year.
Against Edinboro, Gannon welcomed back guard Adam Blazek, who had been inactive with a broken right hand since Gannon’s Dec. 2 game against East Stroudsburg. He came off the bench to score 15 points with a wrapped hand.
Gannon went 7-2 without Blazek in the lineup, a feat Reilly attributed to the team’s depth.
“I think it says a lot about the guys,” he said. “I don’t want Adam to take this wrong because he’s a very, very important part of our team, but we played a lot better without Adam than we did early in the year. Now I think we’re going to play a lot better with our team down the stretch, no doubt.
“The area that we really missed without Adam was the tremendous one-on-one defense, tracking loose balls and deflections. They played excellent ball without him, which can only help us get better.”
Gannon’s balanced attack also fueled the Knights’ 82-59 win over Cal, in which four Gannon players scored in double-figures.
“On any night, anybody could be our leading scorer,” Macias said of the team’s depth. “Honestly, just because some players don’t play doesnt mean that they can’t play. People see the team playing well and say they have good chemistry, but they don’t see how those players push us in practice to make better.”
In its next stretch of five games, Gannon will play the West’s current first-, second- and fourth- place teams, beginning Wednesday with Mercyhurst.
“I feel we need to make a statement against Mercyhurst to show we’re not just a team on an early-season spurt,” Macias said.
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