WILKES-BARRE — King's had seen this happen before. And the Monarchs had seen enough.
A late run before halftime had cut into the Monarchs' lead. A quick bucket surrendered to open the second half, and the Monarchs were suddenly on their heels.
Not for long.
Matt Fiorino answered a charge by Wilkes with three well-timed jumpers to turn back a Colonels' rally before it picked up steam. The senior guard finished with a career-best 28 points in a 71-54 win over Wilkes on Wednesday night at the Marts Center.
The win helped the Monarchs (7-9, 2-3) climb back into the Freedom Conference race and erase the taste of a disappointing weekend loss at Eastern where they lost the lead down the stretch.
At Eastern we were up nine at halftime, we came out in the second half and we just played like we were down nine, King's coach J.P. Andrejko said. We made a bunch of turnovers and let them right back in the game.
Tonight in the second half we came out and kept our composure and we never let them back in it.
And Fiorino was a big part of it, finishing 11-of-18 from the floor and an impressive 6-of-11 from behind the arc.
Andrejko said the shooting display inspired the Monarchs as a whole.
He acted like a senior out there. Acted like a leader, Andrejko said. After the Eastern game, that's what we talked about – that someone needs to be a leader on the floor. Matty's a scorer, but he's a quiet kid. And the way he will lead is through his play.
He killed us, Wilkes coach Jerry Rickrode said. He killed us.
Fiorino's play opened things up for sophomore Tim O'Shea off the bench, who added 18 points for the Monarchs, helping offset the limited availability of leading scorer Kyle Hammonds, who was battling the flu.
Junior Joe Caffrey added 11 points and six rebounds while helping lead an impressive defensive effort. The 54 points for the Colonels (7-8, 0-5) were 10 below their previous season-low. Senior guard Tyler Breznitsky (12 points) was the only Wilkes player in double figures and fellow guard Chris Shovlin, one of the nation's leading scorers, was held to just six points.
I thought our team defense was perfect, Andrejko said. Joey and Connor (Hughes) did a great job trying to keep the ball out of their hands. And our help was great. Chris got to the basket a couple times, but other than that, we got to him early and didn't let him get the ball out of his hands. It starts there.
King's led 32-17 late in the first before Breznitsky hit a buzzer beater to pull Wilkes within 32-24 at the break. Shovlin opened the second half with a driving score to cut the deficit to six before Fiorino fired back for the Monarchs.
The Colonels now find themselves in unfamiliar territory – winless in league play and sitting at the bottom of the Freedom Conference standings. Things aren't about to get any easier.
Already playing Wednesday without Nic Wilkins and Cameron Hinkel, Shovlin exited the game early and was on crutches afterward.
I'm not thinking about our record right now, Rickrode said. I (couldn't) care less about record at this point. I'm thinking about what we gotta do the next day.
I haven't seen a lot of improvement since we lost to Scranton. I've seen a regression. It's not only physical, it's a little mental.
KING'S (71): Matt Fiorino 11-18 0-0 28, Joe Caffrey 4-6 3-5 11, Connor Hughes 0-4 2-4 2, Tom Heston 0-3 0-0 0, Ian Oakley 2-3 1-4 5, Alex Cardoza 0-0 0-0 0, Rich Douglas 0-1 0-0 0, Kyle Hammonds 0-2 0-0 0, Tim O'Shea 8-14 0-0 18, Mike Foster 1-6 0-0 3, Dalton Ell 0-0 0-0 0, Pat O'Donnell 1-1 2-2 4. Totals 27-58 8-15 71.
WILKES (54): Tyler Breznitsky 4-12 2-2 12, Jeremy Hartman 0-2 3-6 3, Chris Shovlin 2-8 2-4 6, Brendan Sheldon 1-2 1-2 3, Lee Strause 2-2 0-0 4, Craig Thomas 0-1 0-0 0, Alec Wizar 1-5 0-0 2, Devin Dunn 0-0 0-0 0, Steve Stravinski 4-8 0-0 9, Mike Boylan 0-2 0-0 0, Mike Sharpe 0-1 0-0 0, Pat Furst 2-7 1-3 6, Cliff Richardson 1-4 0-1 2, Jim Brackett 2-3 2-6 7. Totals 19-57 11-24 54.
Halftime— King's, 32-24
3-point field goals— KC 9-23 (Fiorino 6-11, O'Shea 2-3, Foster 1-4, Hughes 0-1, Caffrey 0-2, Hammonds 0-2); WU 5-20 (Breznitsky 2-3, Furst 1-1, Brackett 1-1, Stravinski 1-4, Thomas 0-1, Hartman 0-2, Boylan 0-2, Shovlin 0-3, Wizar 0-3)