The energy was contagious in the Kerr Fitness Center on Saturday afternoon as the No. 1 La Roche University and No. 3 Penn State Behrend men's basketball teams took the court in front of a packed house for the AMCC Men's Basketball Championship game. La Roche defeated Behrend 62-61 in front of a standing room only crowd to claim the 2020 AMCC men's basketball championship title.
Behrend scored the first points of the game before the Redhawks answered with back-to-back baskets by Kennedy Smith to take the 4-2 lead. Penn State Behrend guard Derrick Clark knocked down a three to make it 5-4, but that was the last time the Lions would be on top in the first half. The game stayed tight, as the Redhawks held a narrow lead throughout much of the first half. A Darrell Barron three-pointer with 3:45 to play in the half gave the Redhawks a seven point lead, their biggest lead at that point of the game. The two teams exchanged baskets for the final three minutes, but two free throws by Austin Hannes with :04 on the clock gave La Roche a 31-23 lead at the break. Kennedy Smith paced the Redhawks in the first half with 10 points and three rebounds on 4-of-6 shooting from the floor. Mitchell King and Tyler Gates fueled the Lions with seven points a piece.
The Behrend Lions came out of the locker room and erased the eight point lead in the first five minutes of the second half. After Devin Pope sunk two free throws for the Lions to open the second half and La Roche's Darius Lawrence connected on a three-pointer for the Redhawks, Penn State Behrend went on a 10-0 run, including six points from Gates to take the 35-34 lead with 14:49 to play. The lead would continue to change hands nine times over the next 14 minutes, with La Roche holding the biggest lead of the half at the 7:51 mark when Hannes nailed a three to give the Redhawks a six-point lead (53-47). However, Fukon scored six straight points of his own over the next minute and a half to once again tie the game at 53-all with 6:17 to play. The score remain knotted for over a minute, until Pope sunk a free throw with just under five minutes to go to give the Lions the one point edge. Four more points by La Roche and another three by Fukon put the score at 57-57 with three minutes left on the clock.
Behrend reclaimed the one-point lead with less than a minute to play when King sunk two free throws with :56 on the clock. A Behrend foul sent Lawrence to the line with :35 to play where he nailed both to put La Roche up 62-61. A Behrend layup attempt right before the final buzzer bounced around the rim and eventually fell out, ending the Lions hope for a repeat conference title.
La Roche had three players score in double figures, led by Lawrence with 15 points. Smith added 14 points, while Frederick chipped in with 12 points and eight rebounds.
Fukon led all scorers with 21 points, while also adding three assists and two steals.
With their fourth conference title under their belts, La Roche will receive the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA national tournament. Pairings will be announced on Monday.
La Roche - Tyler Frederick, Darius Lawrence
Penn State Behrend - Kenny Fukon, Tyler Gates
Pitt-Greensburg - Jojo France
Penn State Altoona - Jack Kusters
Hilbert - Hunter Martineau
Mount Aloysius - Carlos Palacio