KING'S POINT, N.Y. --- The United States Merchant Marine Academy rallied from an early six-point deficit to trail by two points and halftime and eventually earn a 58-46 Landmark Conference win over visiting Moravian College Saturday afternoon as the Mariners stayed alive in the Landmark Conference postseason race.
Despite the loss, the Greyhounds, now 12-12 overall and 7-6 in Landmark Conference action, clinched a berth in the 2012 Landmark Conference Tournament with Susquehanna University's win over The Catholic University of America. Moravian, Catholic and USMMA could all end in a three-way tie at 7-7, but the Greyhounds hold the tiebreaker. Moravian's last postseason berth was in 2008 when the squad played in both the Landmark Conference and NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament.
Moravian, which played without leading scorer D.J. Strayhorn who was injured in Friday night's loss at Drew, scored the first points against the Mariners with a lay-up from freshman guard Izel Dickerson at the 18:18 mark. USMMA, which is now 11-13 overall and 6-7 in Landmark Conference action, tied the contest on a lay-up by sophomore forward/center Nick Sergio before the Greyhounds built a 7-2 lead at the 16:27 mark on a jumper from junior guard Garrett Johnson.
The Greyhounds saw their lead reach six points on a three-point play from Johnson at the 15:27 mark, and Moravian had a 12-6 advantage after a lay-up from junior forward Aaron Thieme with 15 minutes left in the first half. USMMA scored the game's next eight points to take a 14-12 lead on a three-pointer from sophomore forward Reed Buck. However, the Greyhounds retook the lead on a three-pointer from senior forward Jeff Cullinan.
Sophomore guard Kenny Gula gave Moravian a 20-15 lead with 6:04 to go in the first half but Sergio would put the Mariners back in front, 21-20, with a layup. Gula connected on another three-pointer at 2:32 to give Moravian a 25-21 lead, and the Greyhounds headed to the locker took with a 27-25 advantage.
Moravian was ten-for-26 from the field (38.5 percent) in the opening half, and the Greyhounds made three-of-nine three-pointers and four-of-seven free throws in the first 20 minutes of action. Moravian had eight turnovers in the first half while forcing USMMA into 11 turnovers. The Mariners, who had a 20-17 edge in rebounds in the opening half, were eight-for-25 from the floor (32 percent), two-for-seven on three-pointers and seven-for-nine at the foul line.
USMMA scored the first six points of the second half with Buck giving the Mariners a 31-27 lead at the 16:28 mark before Moravian would get on the scoreboard on a pair of free throws from Johnson at 16:03 to cut the lead to 31-29. That is as close as Moravian would get the rest of the game as the Mariners scored five straight to build a 36-29 advantage on a Buck free throw.
Merchant Marine pushed its lead to 11 points, 44-33, on a dunk from Buck with 9:37 left to play, and the USMMA lead reached 15 points, 58-43, with 1:23 to go on a free throw by senior forward Denver Effland.
The Mariners made nine-of-19 shots from the floor (47.4 percent) in the final 20 minutes, and USMMA was 15-for-18 at the foul line in the second half. Merchant Marine missed all six of its second half three-point attempts but the Mariners had a 41-31 edge in rebounds for the game. Moravian struggled shooting the ball in the second half, making just six-of-27 field goal attempts (22.2 percent) after the intermission. The Greyhounds missed all 15 of their three-point attempts and made seven-of-12 free throw attempts in the second half. Moravian had just 16 turnovers in the game while forcing USMMA into 19 turnovers.
Thieme led the Greyhounds with 11 points and seven rebounds off the bench while Johnson finished with nine points, four assists and three steals. Gula contributed eight points and three boards while Cullinan had seven points. Dickerson tossed in five points to go with three boards and three assists while sophomore forward Cameron Cullen had four points, three rebounds and a pair of blocked shots. Senior forward Marcus Hardy had a team high nine rebounds.
Sergio had a double-double of 18 points and ten rebounds to lead USMMA, and he added two blocked shots and two assists. Buck finished with 13 points, two boards and a pair of assists while sophomore guard Jeffrey Mark had ten points and three rebounds. Sophomore guard/forward Zach Karczewski had five rebounds and four points for the Mariners while junior guard Frankie Wisely had five points, three boards and three steals.
Moravian will close out its 2011-12 regular season on Saturday, February 18 with a Landmark Conference game versus Scranton in Johnston Hall. The Senior Day game will tip off at 4:00 p.m.