SALISBURY, Md. – The No. 20 Salisbury University men's basketball team earned a thrilling 86-80 double-overtime victory on Thursday night against visiting York College of Pennsylvania in the semifinal round of the Capital Athletic Conference tournament. The victory pushes the Sea Gulls on to a championship game rematch with Christopher Newport University on Saturday.
The second-seeded Sea Gulls and third-seeded Spartans (17-10) battled throughout the night, with neither team able to stretch a lead to more than six points in the 50 minutes of the game. But it was Salisbury, which struggled from the free throw line through much of the regulation, that was able to come through in the clutch in the closing minutes of the second half and overtime to earn the playoff win.
In the opening half, Salisbury (20-6) was able to open up a six-point lead at the midway point on a Barry Bratten jumper, but the lead was short lived, with a quick bucket and then a three-pointer from Mike Frauenheim cutting the advantage to a point.
Salisbury was able to take a three-point lead into halftime, closing the half on a 7-3 run which included a three-pointer from sophomore Jack Ferguson. The Kingston, Ontario native hit two big threes late in the first half and scored a career-high 13 points in the game.
The Spartans grabbed their largest lead of the night early in the second half, putting together a 9-1 run to start the second period, to go ahead 37-32.
The game remained tight the rest of the way, with the lead growing to five again for the Sea Gulls at one point following a Wyatt Smith three-pointer, but it dipped back down and remained within one possession over the final six minutes of regulation and all of the first overtime period.
The lead changed hands six times in the closing 20 minutes of regulation, and tied three times, the last of which came on a pair of free throws from York's Blayde Reich with 4.9 seconds showing on the clock.
Salisbury got a chance at the end of regulation to win, but Smith's effort from the left side caught iron, and would not drop.
The Spartans took a three-point lead in the first overtime session, and led by two with under 30 seconds to play, looking to seal the win. But junior Chad Barcikowski knocked the ball away from Jared Wagner from behind, into Ferguson's hands. A quick foul sent Ferguson to the line, where he hit both tries to tie the game.
Another York turnover gave Salisbury another chance to win, and Barcikowski's jumper from 30 feet away was in and out, sending the game to another five minutes.
The second overtime did not see the teams separate by more than three points until just 74 seconds remained. Senior Gordon Jeter hit a pair of field goals, and Salisbury did the rest from the stripe, hitting 7-of-10 from the free-throw line in the second overtime. Jeter got one more layup to cap the win with less than 20 seconds to play, sending Salisbury to the title tilt.
Along with Ferguson's 13, Jeter scored 17 and pulled in 11 rebounds – seven of which came on the offensive end – for his third double-double of the year. Smith and Justin Witmer each scored 16 in the victory, which marked the first time in program history that Salisbury has won 20 or more games in three-consecutive seasons.
The CAC championship game is set to tip off at 4:30 p.m., on Saturday, February 25 in Newport News, Virginia, as the top-seeded Captains are the hosts. Christopher Newport topped Marymount (Va.) University on Thursday night, 78-53, to advance. The Sea Gulls and Captains split their meetings this year, and the Captains squeaked out a 68-67 overtime victory in the 2016 CAC title game last February.