ECAC Men’s Basketball Tournament: Titans Win Triple OT Thriller over Penn State Behrend

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ECAC Men’s Basketball Tournament: Titans Win Triple OT Thriller over Penn State Behrend

ERIE, Pa. (Titan Athletics)– A game-winning layup by Westminster College senior Preston Stitt (Boardman, OH / South Range) in triple overtime advanced the Titans past Penn State Behrend, 95-94, in the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Championship Tournament First Round on the road Wednesday evening.

Penn State Behrend (20-9) took a 9-3 lead with 12 minutes left in the first half. Westminster (16-11) responded with a 10-2 run to take its first lead of the game (13-11), following a layup by junior Isaac Stamatiades (Elkridge, MD / Avalon), with eight minutes remaining. The game went back-and-forth until the 2:39 mark when the Titans began their 9-1 run to close out the half with their largest lead of the frame, 32-26.

The Titans controlled the beginning of the second half, leading in double-digits three times with the latest at the 13:37 mark (48-38). The Lions were down by nine (57-48) with just under nine minutes left, before orchestrating a 17-7 run to take a 65-64 lead – their first lead since late in the first half. Stitt put the Titans ahead on a pull-up jumper with 53 seconds left, however, Penn State tied the game and forced overtime following a layup by Devin Pope with five seconds on the clock (69-69).

The Lions had a comfortable, five-point lead (76-71) with two minutes left in the first overtime. Westminster rallied with two free throws from Stamatiades, a layup by senior Blake Payne (Ashtabula, OH / Jefferson Area), and a clutch free throw from Stitt with 39 seconds remaining. Stamatiades's last-second jumper just came up short to close out the first OT. Penn State Behrend once again jumped out to a five-point lead in the second overtime, up 88-33 with 44 seconds left. Stamatiades answered with a pair of clutch free throws and a three-point buzzer-beater to force a third OT all tied up at 88 (Payne gave Westminster new life with an offensive rebound and dished the ball out to Stamatiades). Penn State had a two-possession lead (92-88) early in the fourth overtime.

Westminster fought back with a 5-0 run, capped off with two free throws from junior Daniel Ritter (North Lima, OH / South Range) to lead 93-92 with 1:32 left. The Lions recaptured the lead (94-93) with a layup from Tyler Gates with 23 seconds remaining. Stitt picked up a loose ball with seconds left, made a move against the Penn State defender, and drove to the basket for the game-winning lay-up with two seconds left.

Stamatiades led the way with a game-high 27 points to go along with a game-high 15 rebounds, marking his 13th double-double of the season. Senior Blake Payne (Ashtabula, OH / Jefferson Area) tied a career-high with 24 points and 12 rebounds to earn his third double-double of the season. Stitt finished in double figures with 13 points off the bench to go along with a team-high five assists. Junior Daniel Ritter (North Lima, OH / South Range) tallied 13 points and earned six rebounds. 

Westminster shot 47.4% (37-78) from the field compared to Penn State Behrend's 49.3% (36-73) field goal percentage. Westminster also dished out 19 assists. The Titans forced 20 Behrend turnovers and scored 32 points off of those miscues.

Westminster advances to face Rutgers Newark University hosted at Gwynedd Mercy University, north of Philadelphia, on Friday, March 6 at 5 p.m. in the ECAC Quarterfinals.

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