Trailing by nine midway through the second half, the Wilmington University men's basketball team stormed back to take down Chestnut Hill, 75-69, in a pivotal Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference South Division contest on Thursday night in Sorgenti Arena.
Having already lost to the Griffins (4-14, 3-8 CACC) earlier this season, the Wildcats (6-15, 5-7 CACC) needed to split the season series to stay above Chestnut Hill in the CACC standings. With tonight's win, and coupled with a loss by Goldey-Beacom, the Wildcats now hold a 1.5 game lead over both the Lightning and Griffins for the fourth and final playoff spot in the South Division.
The Wildcats used a 7-1 run over the final four minutes of play in the first half to cut a 12–point deficit in half and go into the halftime break down 31-25.
The Wildcats continued to cut into the lead as the second half opened, as Valentino Thompson closed the gap to a single point with a three-pointer on the Wildcats second possession of the second stanza.
The Griffins were able to recover and not give up the lead, even expanding the margin back out to as many as nine at 44-35 with 12:03 remaining in regulation.
That's when Drew Johnson hit a three-pointer to spark a 19-2 run over the next 5:57 of game play to turn the Wildcats' deficit into a eight point lead with 5:54 showing on the scoreboard. During the run, Sam Sanders gave the Wildcats the lead with a pair of free throws, 47-46, and Johnson added another three-pointer on the Wildcats' next possession for the four-point lead. Sanders capped the spurt with a layup for the 54-46 lead.
A layup by Tyaire Ponzo-Meek gave the Wildcats a 13-point lead with 2:38 remaining while a Shai Henry free throw brought the Wildcats to its largest lead of the game at 64-50 with 2:22 to play.
But the Griffins battled back over the final 1:36 still trailing by 14 points. A Gerald Evariste put-back layup brought the home team to 69-64 with 41 seconds left before another Griffin layup by Luke Dickson had Chestnut Hill to within four points with 33 ticks to play.
But Ponzo-Meek calmly hit a pair of free throws with 27 seconds to play before Griffin capped the victory with two more from the foul line, settling on the final score, 75-69.
Griffin finished with his first double-double of the season, scoring 16 points and grabbing a game high 13 rebounds. The big man also finished with four blocks to protect the rim. Henry led the Wildcats with 17 points off the bench, narrowly missing his own double-double by securing nine rebounds.
Johnson went 2-of-4 from three-point territory, both during the game deciding run, and shot 5-of-8 from the floor to finish with 13 points off the bench while Sanders added 12 points off the bench.
The Wildcats only shot 35.1 percent from the floor but held the Griffins to a 34.9 percent shooting clip on the night. The Wildcats held a distinct 51-33 advantage on the glass, including a 31-19 advantage on the defensive boards.
The Wildcats remain on the road for two more contests, first heading to Concordia on Saturday for a CACC cross-divisional contest. The men finish off the CACC doubleheader in Bronxville, N.Y., with a 3 p.m. tip.