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Pioneers conquer Bobcats in semifinals
FAIRFIELD-Senior guard Adam Gonzalez may not have started Sunday for the Quinnipiac men’s basketball team against Sacred Heart in the Northeast Conference semifinals. Anyone who saw his signature smile, however, knew he was back.
Unfortunately for Gonzalez and the Bobcats, by the end of their 83-69 loss to the Pioneers at the Pitt Center, there was little reason to smile. The loss eliminated the ‘Cats from the postseason while SHU moves on to play Central Connecticut State in the NEC championship game tonight.
“I’d like to say that the ball just didn’t go in the basket, but that would be unfair to Sacred Heart,” Quinnipiac head coach Joe DeSantis said. “I thought they did a good job defending us, playing with energy. They are tough to play at home because they seem to thrive off the 3-point shot.”
After an infection on his arm forced him to miss the quarterfinals against Fairleigh Dickinson, Gonzalez returned to the team in time for a rematch against the Pioneers. Last Monday, the ‘Cats fell to Sacred Heart, 87-84, despite a career-high 37 points from Gonzalez. Sunday, the outcome was no better. The Bobcats trailed 35-33 at the half, but took momentum into the locker room after Chris Wehye converted a heavily-contested lay up in the waning seconds.
The second half was a completely different story for Quinnipiac. After a Dale Meinbresse 3-pointer from the left corner cut Sacred Heart’s lead to 51-48, the Pioneers offense started clicking. Highlighted by the scoring prowess of Drew Shubik (16 points) and Ryan Litke (16 points), Sacred Heart pushed its lead to 12 points at 66-54 with 4:39 left in the game. Quinnipiac would get no closer than that as the Pioneers lead ballooned to 17 points with 2:09 remaining. The Bobcats attacked the basket successfully in their last few possessions, but it was too little too late.
But DeSantis is excited about where the program is heading, even in defeat.
“My guys deserve a lot of credit,” he said. “We’ve been through a lot this year. This program is in good shape now with the new arena and returning guys that we have. We are going to miss the five seniors, but we will take some time off and start working toward next year.
“People always asked me about my playing career and I told them we had great teams. This is a great team,” DeSantis added.
Gonzalez, one of the five seniors, finished with a game-high 20 points even though he said he was a little rusty.
“When you’re laying in a hospital bed for five or six days, it’s going to catch up to you,” Gonzalez said. “I felt winded early but I had to fight through it.”
The Bobcats only converted one 3-pointer on the day, shooting a dismal five percent from distance, and turned the ball over 15 times. Sacred Heart was much more efficient on both ends of the ball.
“I just think [Sacred Heart’s] energy overtook us,” DeSantis said. “I thought they beat us to spots. We couldn’t get to spots we were comfortable with. They just seemed to get us out of our comfort zone.”
The ‘Cats rounded out their season with a 14-15 record overall. Along with Gonzalez, Meinbresse and Wehye, seniors Van Crafton and Victor Akinyanju also wrapped up their Quinnipiac basketball careers Sunday.