Radnor, PA | In a game eerily reminiscent of their regular season meeting that ended in similar fashion, No. 22 Cabrini University used a buzzer-beating basket to score an 88-86 win over visiting College of Staten Island as part of First-Round NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament play at the Narney Field House.  The Cavaliers improved their record to 25-3 and will face Springfield College tomorrow evening in Second Round action, while the Dolphins’ season finalized at 17-12.

The Dolphins used a Raymond Savage three-pointer to take an 83-80 lead late in the game, and then a long-range three from fellow senior Edin Bracic to force an 86-86 tie with 5.4 seconds left before Cabrini’s Deryl Bagwell took the inbounds pass and raced down the right sideline, burying a long-range jumper with 0.2 seconds remaining to seal the win.  Up by as many as 12 points in the game’s first half, Cabrini reversed the field and took an 11-point lead with under 10 minutes to play to set the stage for the Dolphins comeback that led to a lead with less than two minutes to play, an almost exact replica of what transpired a month ago between the two sides.  

“I thought it was a phenomenal game and it came down to the end like it did the last time,” commented first-year Head Coach TJ Tibbs.  “I am very proud of my kids.  If we’re going to lose you want it to be to a class coaching staff and a class program like Cabrini.  It was a big-time shot at the end and unfortunately we were on the losing end.”

Before the frantic finish, CSI was actually the better of the two sides in the early stages.  Adeola Latunji canned CSI’s first seven points and nine of the team’s first 11, helping CSI to an 11-7 opening after the game was delayed over an hour thanks to poor weather and a brief blackout that occurred in the later stages of the opening round game between Springfield and Albright College.

After CU had cut the lead to 15-12 on a Tyheim Monroe baskets, CSI went on a 6-0 rip, with two baskets by Christian Taylor to help CSI to a 21-12 lead.  Later, jumpers by Latunji and Taylor sandwiched a put-back follow by Jade Spencer, giving CSI its biggest lead of the game, 29-17, with 7:24 remaining in the half.

As great teams do, Cabrini refused to let the poor start dictate, and proceeded to dial up a 16-4 run over the next three-plus minutes to force a 33-33 tie with 4:03 to go in the frame.  Monroe pushed inside for three baskets, while Anthony Wright-Downing completed a three-point play and Bagwell aced a jump shot.  Still, CSI was able to temper the comeback, and used a Bracic three, CSI’s only one of the half in 10 tries, to help punch the visitors to a 40-39 halftime lead.

The 15-minute reprieve proved to be exactly was the Cavaliers needed, however, and after shooting just 30% in the first half, the home side sank eight of their first nine second-half shots, including a trio of threes, two by DJ Smith, to take a 59-48 lead just 4:11 into the second frame.

Cabrini would match the lead a pair of times before CSI started to chip away in the final 10 minutes.  An 8-1 CSI run, powered by a Rigaud Destime jumper and two more baskets by Taylor, narrowed the deficit to four, and after Bagwell responded for CU, the Dolphins cut the lead to just 72-71 with 7:49 left on a Latunji three, breaking a 1-15 start for CSI from behind the arc.

From there, however, CSI would go cold, going 0-6 over the next four minutes while turning over the ball three times to stay at bay.  Thankfully, Cabrini could not capitalize, and could only go up by three before a Taylor jumper and then another Bracic three forced a 78-78 tie with 3:17 to go, and from there, the fireworks were on.

Wright-Downing and Taylor traded baskets before Savage buried his first basket of the game at 1:57 to finally give CSI the lead, similar to how Taylor gave CSI a two point lead after trailing by 10 during the regular season to Cabrini with just 1:28 remaining in that contest.  The lead, however, wouldn’t hold, as the home side asked for time and punched in a pair of baskets by Wright-Downing and Monroe to take an 84-83 edge with 1:05 to play.  

After two-straight CSI misses from in-close, CU almost ended it when Bagwell stormed and hit a lay-up in the process of getting fouled, sending him to the line with his team up, 86-83 and 15 seconds remaining.  In what was a fitting end to a nightmarish free-throw shooting day for Cabrini (12-30, 40%), Bagwell missed the freebie, and CSI raced down, allowing Taylor hand-off to Bracic well-extended at the top of the arc, and the senior stroked a contested three to tie the game with 5.4 remaining.  Cabrini asked for time, and put the ball in Bagwell’s hands for the thrilling finish.  After the horn sounded, the officials put up 0.2 seconds left, and Bracic sailed a ball all the way down the floor that blasted off of the backboard but onto the floor for the game’s conclusion.

Monroe led the Cavaliers with 22 points and 12 rebounds, his 25th double-double of the season, an NCAA-high.  Wright-Downing finished with 18 points, while the hero Bagwell notched 15 points and a game-high 15 rebounds.  CSI was led by Christian Taylor’s career-high 38 points to go with six rebounds and four assists.  Latunji would finalize with 22 points adding eight boards and Bracic poured in 13 points and six rebounds.  CSI out-rebounded Cabrini, 42-38, and were a +4 in the turnover column, 17-13.  The Cavaliers, however, shot a blistering 67.9% in the second-half (19-28) to overcome the young Dolphins squad.

For Tibbs the loss was one that was felt for a team that didn’t see itself as the underdog.  “We speak a lot about expectations and standards, and we expected to be playing a high-level team on their home floor.  That said, everyone in the locker room is very disappointed because we expected to win.  We have tremendous kids and it’s the way we think.”

For the Dolphins, the NCAA entry was their 13th in history.  They fell to an overall record of 5-16, losing for the second season in a row in the opening round.  It was Cabrini’s third-straight win over the series which they now lead, 3-1.  It was their first NCAA Postseason meeting in their history.