LANCASTER, Pa. – Jon Salandra picked up a game-changing block, collected a major rebound and hit a key free throw in the final three minutes of action to help lift Franklin & Marshall to a 48-46 victory over Muhlenberg in the Centennial Conference (CC) semifinals Friday evening at the Mayser Center. F&M will face Dickinson tomorrow at 7:00 p.m. with the CC crown on the line.
F&M advances to its 13th CC Championship game since conference play began in 1994. The Diplomats will look to win their eighth CC Crown, fourth straight, and 19th conference title overall, which includes 11 MAC championships.
Salandra blocked Kevin Hargrove on what appeared to be an easy bucket with 3:18 left to play, which changed the momentum of the game, and his bucket seconds later stopped a 5-0 Muhlenberg run that lasted over six minutes as both teams struggled to make baskets over a three minute span.
Then Hayk Gyokchyan took over.
Gyokchyan drained treys in back-to-back possessions that changed a five-point deficit into a one-point advantage, 47-46, with 53 seconds to go.
Brando Bovino turned the ball over on the Mules next trip down the court and the Mules fouled Max Brewer with 32 ticks left. Brewer missed the one-and-one and Muhlenberg took over with the shot clock turned off.
Malique Killing took the ball, held for the final shot, drove down lane and put up a layup that went off the back iron and Salandra pulled down the board with just under three seconds remaining in the game. Salandra was immediately fouled and hit the front end of a one-and-one to make it a two-point game, 48-46. Muhlenberg was unable to get a shot off after coming away with the rebound on the second shot as F&M escaped with the win.
F&M looked to have the game in hand early as the Diplomats jumped out to a 13-6 lead at 12:49 in the first half. Gyokchyan's three at 11:00 put the Diplomats up 18-8 and Brewer's trey at 6:16 helped F&M maintain the 10-point edge at 23-13. The Mules answered with a 9-2 run to come within three, 25-22, with 1:53 left in the half and Cedric Moune hit two from the line to send the game into the break at 27-22.
The teams traded baskets to start the second before Muhlenberg came alive with a 12-0 spurt that spanned three minutes and gave the Mules a 36-31 lead with 15:08 left to play. F&M slowly chipped away at the lead and back-to-back threes by Matt Porter put F&M within one, 40-39, at 12:04. That led to the 5-0 Muhlenberg run and the final minutes of action.
Salandra finished with a game-high 15 points and nine rebounds. Porter tallied 14, hitting 3-for-7 from the behind the arc and Gyokchyan netted nine for F&M.
Killings came into the game leading the conference with 19 points per game and guarded primarily by Porter, finished with 10. Bovino scored nine for the Mules and finished with six boards.
FRANKLIN & MARSHALL 48, MUHLENBERG 46
Malique Killing 3-14 3-4 10; Brandon Bovino 3-4 3-4 9; Kevin Hargrove 3-6 0-0 6; Austin Curry 3-8 0-0 6; Matt O'Hara 1-1 1-2 4; Alec Stavetski 0-0 4-4 4; Hunter Forsman 1-2 2-2 4; James Albano 1-4 0-0 3. Totals 15-39 13-16 46.
FRANKLIN & MARSHALL (20-6)
Jon Salandra 7-16 1-2 15; Matt Porter 5-12 1-1 14; Hayk Gyokchyan 3-6 0-0 9; Max Brewer 2-7 0-1 6; Cedric Moune 0-1 2-2 2; Brandon Beckford 1-6 0-2 2; Morgan Lee 0-3 0-0 0; Gordon Rogo 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 18-52 4-8 48.
Muhlenberg.................... 22 24 - 46
Franklin & Marshall........... 27 21 - 48
3-point goals--Muhlenberg 3-7 (James Albano 1-3; Matt O'Hara 1-1; Malique Killing 1-1; Austin Curry 0-2), Franklin & Marshall 8-23 (Matt Porter 3-7; Hayk Gyokchyan 3-5; Max Brewer 2-5; Morgan Lee 0-3; Gordon Rogo 0-1; Brandon Beckford 0-2).
Fouled out--Muhlenberg-None, Franklin & Marshall-None.
Rebounds--Muhlenberg 29 (Brandon Bovino 6), Franklin & Marshall 31 (Jon Salandra 9).
Assists--Muhlenberg 6 (Matt O'Hara 4), Franklin & Marshall 13 (Max Brewer 5).
Total fouls--Muhlenberg 15, Franklin & Marshall 15.