PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - - An unbelievable second half performance from beyond the three-point arc sent Philadelphia to the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference South Division Regular Season Championship over the Wilmington University men's basketball team, 81-61, on Tuesday night at the Gallagher Center.
The Wildcats (19-8, 14-4 CACC) already had a CACC Tournament First Round home game locked up, but a win would have given the squad its first CACC South Division Regular Season Championship in program history. Instead, the Wildcats will settle for the South Division's No. 2 seed and will host the North Division's No. 3 seed, Caldwell, on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. at the WU Athletics Complex.
Trailing by its largest margin of the first half, 30-23, with 4:19 showing on the clock, the Wildcats went on a run to take the lead into the halftime break. Two Nick Richards' free throws started the spurt followed by a Tyaire Ponzo-Meek layup and a drive by Drew Johnson II. A Brian Adkins block at the defensive end turned into a fastbreak dunk at the other end for Richards, putting the Wildcats in front, 31-30, with 33 seconds to play in the half. The Wildcats picked up a defensive stop to end the half and go into the break leading by one point.
Omari Dill-Pettiford hit a jumper to start the second half and put the Wildcats ahead, 33-30, but that is when the Rams struck fire. Back-to-back three-points by Kaison Randolph put the home team up 38-33, before two more three-pointers by Josh Bradanese had the Rams ahead, 48-37, with 14:39 left in regulation. The Rams went on to hit their first seven three-pointers of the second half, finally missing at the 9:39 mark of the second half.
The Rams went on to shoot 13-of-17 from deep in the second half alone, finishing 15-of-27 (55.6 percent) from beyond the arc in the contest. Conversely, the Wildcats only hit 3-of-16 from three-point territory for the game, including just 1-of-9 in the second half.
There wasn't much the Wildcats could do once the three-pointer started falling for the Rams.
The lead ballooned out to as large as 21 points on another Bradanese three-pointer with 5:57 to play, ending all hope of a late game comeback by the Wildcats. The Rams took their largest lead of the game with 1:19 to play, 81-59, on yet another three-pointer as the shot clock wound down.
The Wildcats shot 23-of-58 (39.7 percent) from the floor for the game while the Rams shot a hot 30-of-46 (53.6 percent) for the game. The Rams' Bradanese and Randolph each hit five three-pointers while Andre Gibbs added four of his own.
Ponzo-Meek led the Wildcats with 19 points while Richards was the only other to reach double digits with 16 points. Tajee Almon grabbed a team high seven rebounds while Miles Gillette came off the bench to grab five boards.
Bradanese finished with a career high 27 points to lead all scorers while Randolph finished with a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds.
The Wildcats will now look to the CACC Tournament, as they will make their third ever appearance in the postseason in the NCAA era. The Wildcats went to the CACC Tournament Championship in the 2014-15 season. Tip-off is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. on Saturday at the WU Athletics Complex.