We told you that the Mount was going to be pushed in the opening round of the NEC Tournament. We're not sure we even thought the pushing was going to be this hard. Mt. St. Mary's defeated Wagner 72-62 (check the preview score) at the Knott Arena earning a berth in the tourney semifinals on Sunday. The Mount will host Sacred Heart Sunday at 7 in a rematch of last year's championship game. Robert Morris will host Quinnipiac in the other. The Bobcats pulled off the only 1st round upset winning on the road at Long Island in overtime.
The Mount got a huge performance from Kelly Beidler. The junior forward was sensational for the Mount. He got the job done at both ends of the floor and his hustle defending in the backcourt let to a few easy buckets for the Mount and may have easily been the difference.
That is not to downplay the effort of any of the other Mountaineers. Jean Cajou had a couple of huge dagger-like three-pointers and a dunk over top one Wagner defender that will forever go down as one of the biggest in Knott Arena history.
Shawn Atupem was virtually unstoppable inside and may have ended up as the Mountaineers leading scorer. He had at least 16 and might have ended with 18.
Jeremy Goode engineered the offense and had a few key steals for the Mounties. He didn't have the best of nights shooting the ball, but he still did good things for this team. And you have to figure that he'll have a good shooting night real soon.
The inside duo of seniors Sam Atupem and Markus Mitchell did a great job on the boards and helped this team win its fourth straight NEC tournament game.
Pierre Brown and Will Holland came off the bench and provided some quality minutes. Brown hit a big jumper midway through the second half.
This game was close all the way, but really minus an 8-0 run by the Seahawks to close the first half, the Mount pretty much controlled the basketball game after the 10-minute mark of the first half. Still the long range (and we mean LONG range) shooting of Joey Mundweiler kept the Hawks within striking distance all the while. And this game was tied with as little as six minutes to play and maybe less.
Credit to Wagner for a good gameplan and a solid effort, but the champions were not to be dethroned on this night. There were some very key plays down the stretch. Beidler making two big free throws to break a tie, stealing a pass in the backcourt and converting a bucket. Cajou hit a big three at the death of the shot clock late in the second half, and Atupem had a baseline dropstep move that led to some important points.
There was a great crowd on hand at the Arena, that I hope is only surpassed by the crowd on Sunday night. It was a classic playoff game. The Mount got the win. And that is what March is about.