READING - For one of the first times all season, Lycoming can hang its hat on a defensive performance.
The No. 3 seeded Warriors' normal defensive deficiencies looked like a distant memory as an amped up effort forced 10 turnovers and stopped No. 2 Albright on its final possession to preserve the 80-78 win in the semifinals of the Commonwealth Conference playoffs on Wednesday night.
Lycoming will travel to Alvernia, a 69-66 winner over Arcadia, Saturday for the Commonwealth Conference Championship.
The final stand was set up after Anthony Martin connected on the first of two free throws. And for a moment after a scramble to find the final shot, it appeared Albright wasn't even going to get off an attempt.
Lycoming (17-9) swarmed to the ball, which kept the Lions offense out of sync as it struggled to get a good look.
Pedro Perez eventually got the look Albright (20-6) wanted. The shot gave Lycoming a moment or two of doubt as it circled around the rim before falling out.
"Coach has been preaching defense and rebounds all season," Kevin Anthony said. "We knew if we wanted to keep our season alive we'd have to keep playing defense."
Anthony played one of his best offensive games of the season, scoring 14 points and grabbing seven rebounds. Anthony also added a steal as he provided 16 crucial minutes off the bench for Lycoming.
"The effort William Wingate gave tonight helped Kevin (Anthony) come back to life and give the effort he gave tonight," Lycoming coach Guy Rancourt said. "It gave us that 1-2 punch that really helped us take that next step to the championship."
Wingate excelled at both ends of the floor, posting a career best 22 points and 11 rebounds. Defensively, Wingate was forced to guard either Albright's leading scorer in Dave Singleton or forward Kyle Jordan.
In both instances, Wingate gave a great effort to wear out both players and get them in foul trouble.
"We wanted to attack them (once they were in foul trouble)," Wingate said. "We wanted to get them fouled out."
Singleton, who fell a point short of Wingate's game-high total with 21 points, appeared exhausted in the final minutes. He even went to his knees after a late timeout. And after a exhausting couple of minutes against Wingate, Singleton eventually fouled out when he was forced to grab Martin to stop the clock.
Lycoming's stepped up defensive effort kept Albright under 40 percent from the field.
In the first half, when Lycoming gained a 10-point lead on two occasions, the Lions were 15 of 43 from the field and hit just 2 of 12 3-pointers.
Michael Rudy was a big factor as he matched a single-game record with six blocks with 14 points.
"I like Mike Rudy a lot," Wingate said. "Once his hand is up it seems like an automatic block."
Lycoming's offense, on the other hand, only attempted two 3-pointers in the first half. The Warriors, led by Kevin Anthony's 12 first half points, attacked the paint which led to Albright fouls or layups in the paint.
It was a style of offense that Wingate appeared comfortable in.
The emerging starter was a perfect four of four from the field and helped key a 13-2 run to give Lycoming its first lead.
Wingate intercepted a ball near mid-court and quickly raced to the other end for a layup. The bucket might have come at a price, though, as Wingate appeared to injure his wrist on the play. Any concerns were quickly dashed as Wingate slammed a break away dunk down with the hand after reentering the game.
"It's okay," Wingate said of his wrist. "It's been hurting since the Widener game when I tweaked it, but it's been on and off since then, but I've tried to play through it."
Trailing just 13-12 at that point, Chris Forman sank a long 3-pointer to give Lycoming its first lead of the game at 15-13. The Warriors pushed the lead to 10 on two separate occasions, but a late Albright rally cut it down to 39-36 at the break.
Jordan played a solid first half for the Lions, pulling down seven rebounds to go with 10 points. Singleton, a former Division I recruit, paced Albright's offense with 11 points.
"They did a good job of attacking us and not settling for perimeter shots," Rancourt said. "They kept us on our heels a bit, but getting those rebounds and winning the rebounding margin was the deciding factor."
William Wingate 9-15 4-8 22; Kevin Anthony 6-9 2-3 14; Michael Rudy 5-9 4-6 14; Anthony Martin 5-14 2-7 12; Jerald Williams 2-11 5-6 9; Chris Foreman 2-6 0-1 5; Patrick Dougher 1-4 2-2 4; Rob Pillow IV 0-0 0-0 0; John Ryan Wolff 0-1 0-0 0; John Monkam 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 30-70 19-33 80.
Dave Singleton 7-24 6-9 21; Kyle Jordan 8-14 4-7 20; Pedro Perez 6-17 7-8 20; Zach Benjamin 6-13 0-1 13; Cornell Mickens 1-2 0-0 2; Sam Marrella 1-6 0-0 2; Evan Ward 0-0 0-0 0; Reuel Moore 0-5 0-0 0; Calvert Gantz 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 29-81 17-25 78.
Halftime: Lycoming, 39-36. 3-point goals--Lycoming 1-6 (Foreman 1-2; Rudy 0-1; Dougher 0-3), Albright 3-20 (Benjamin 1-1; Perez 1-7; Singleton 1-3; Marrella 0-4; Moore 0-5). Fouled out-Dave Singleton. Rebounds--Lycoming 57 (Williams 12), Albright 51 (Jordan 18). Assists--Lycoming 14 (Williams 11), Albright 17 (Marrella 7; Singleton 7). Total fouls--Lycoming 18, Albright 23. Technical fouls--None. A-1535