Warrior men earn top seed, home court in MAC tourney

Alex Newbold of Lycoming looks for a shot down low against a group of defenders Saturday vs. Albright at Lamade Gym.

One possession, Alex Newbold was diving out of bounds to save a loose ball while knocking over some chairs. A few possessions later, Chris Wallace was using his fancy footwork and post moves to earn a rugged basket. Moments later, Newbold was taking a charge.

In a very physical and crucial MAC Commonwealth matchup, Lycoming came out on top with a 90-83 win over Albright Saturday afternoon at Lamade Gym.

Lycoming has two games left vs. No. 2 Lebanon Valley and 4-19 Stevenson, but has clinched the top seed and homecourt advantage throughout the MAC Commonwealth playoffs for the second time in three seasons thanks to this win and Messiah’s 68-67 win over Lebanon Valley.

All five starters scored in double-figures for Lycoming (19-4, 11-3 MAC Commonwealth) as it was the more physical and stronger-minded team on Dutch Burch Court.

“Albright is very much like us, they’re very talented, they’re very deep and they’re very physical,” Lycoming coach Guy Rancourt said. “It was really kind of who was going to last at the end and pull it off and we were able to hang in there.”

In a game that featured 61 free throws, 52 fouls, three technical fouls, players talking trash to fans, fans talking trash to players, a fan walking onto the court looking for a fight and that fan being ejected, Rancourt was happy with how his team responded to the physical aspect of the game but he was equally, if not more so pleased, with the mental toughness his players displayed.

“Excellent, and I was concerned with that,” Rancourt said of his team’s mental toughness. “We needed to make sure that we understood what’s on the line and where we’re at and what’s happening. What’s on the line really is just winning the next game. It’s not about what position you finish in, it’s not about anything else. It’s about, are you winning the next opportunity that’s in front of you?”

Lycoming made 30 of 34 free throws, an 88 percent clip, the best this season for a team that coming in was hitting 65 percent of its free throws. The Warriors also outrebounded Albright (40-39) and had a decisive advantage in points in the paint (36-22).

After falling behind by eight midway through the first half, Lycoming took control and take a three-point lead into the break. Despite shooting 37 percent in the first half, the Warriors defense kept them in the game as it held Albright to just 37 percent from the field while forcing 12 turnovers. Albright eventually regained the lead and had a two-point lead with 13:13 remaining in the second half but it wouldn’t regain the lead again as Lycoming made 21 of 24 free throws in the final 10 minutes, including 12 straight at one point. The Warriors led by 10 with under three minutes remaining and the game was never really in doubt after that.

A welcomed sight was Lycoming’s 3-point defense as Albright hit just 8 of 29 (28 percent) from deep. The Warriors have allowed seven teams to hit 40 percent or more from deep this season.

“I think we’re getting better with that as we’re going here. It’s dangerous because you get better with your 3-point defense, does that mean you’re going to give up more 2’s? What’s the balance,” Rancourt said. “But we’re finding a pretty good balance right now and not giving up too many interior points.”

Nyk King (seven rebounds, three assists) led all five starters in double-figures with 18 points. David Johnson added 17 points, Willie Kee scored 13, Newbold (seven rebounds, three assists) had 12 and Wallace scored 10 to go with seven rebounds.

ALBRIGHT (11-13, 9-6 MACC)

Fred Rowles 6-12 3-4 18; Omari Ringgold 7-15 2-2 17; Garrett Oplinger 4-6 6-6 16; DeJuan Smith 5-11 2-3 13; Jayson Clark 3-7 2-4 9; DeLascio Dancy 1-1 4-4 6; Jared Rappoport 1-4 1-2 3; Brandon Lindsay 0-3 1-2 1; Jaylin Calloway 0-4 0-0 0. Totals 27-63 21-27 83.

LYCOMING (19-4, 11-3 MACC)

Nyk King 7-15 2-4 18; David Johnson 4-7 8-8 17; Willie Kee 4-9 4-4 13; Alex Newbold 4-8 4-4 12; Chris Wallace 4-8 2-3 10; Darius James 3-5 3-3 9; T.J. Duckett 0-3 5-6 5; Trent Bishop 2-4 0-0 4; Ronald Jefferson 0-1 2-2 2; Calvin Chandler 0-5 0-0 0; Damani Myers 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 28-67 30-34 90.

Halftime: Lycoming, 39-36. 3-point goals–Albright 8-29 (Rowles 3-7; Oplinger 2-4; Smith 1-3; Ringgold 1-6; Clark 1-4; Calloway 0-3; Lindsay 0-2), Lycoming 4-18 (King 2-3; Kee 1-4; Johnson 1-3; Duckett 0-3; Chandler 0-3; Myers 0-1; Newbold 0-1). Fouled out–Clark, Lindsay. Rebounds–Albright 39 (Oplinger 8; Smith 8), Lycoming 40 (Newbold 7; King 7; Wallace 7). Assists–Albright 14 (Dancy 4), Lycoming 10 (King 3; Newbold 3). Total fouls–Albright 28, Lycoming 24. Technical fouls-Clark, Smith, Johnson. A-468