WILKES-BARRE — Much of the attention was on Wilkes' guards. And for good reason.
Tyler Breznitsky had already torched Misericordia in the second half. Chris Shovlin, though a bit limited in his first game back from injury, still needed to be accounted for.
With the game on the line, Misericordia hounded both of them as the clock ticked down, protecting a two-point lead. So the Colonels dished it back to the top of the arc, where forward Nic Wilkins was ready and waiting.
Just 1-for-8 on three-pointers on the season, Wilkins let it fly.
Down it went, taking Wilkes' conference losing streak with it.
Wilkins' shot with 12.2 seconds left gave the Colonels an uplifting 67-66 win over the Cougars on Wednesday, sending the home bench leaping onto the Marts Center court in celebration of the team's first Freedom Conference victory of the season.
I said to the team afterwards, ‘I'm just happy for you guys because we just took a lot of crap this year,' Wilkes coach Jerry Rickrode said. The guys have just been down because of what we've been going through. I'm happy for them.
Wilkins, who finished with a career-high 16 points and added 11 rebounds, gave them reason to cheer.
But not before the Colonels (8-11, 1-8) came up with one final stop, denying the Cougars a pass into the paint and forcing them to settle for a deep three in traffic as time expired.
We tried to get (forward Steve Ware) in a little bit of an isolation. (Wilkes) did a good job switching it and we didn't react well, Misericordia coach Trevor Woodruff said of the final possession. But that was kind of a microcosm of the day. I don't think we executed well at all the entire day.
Both Wilkins and Shovlin have been battling injuries and have had to sit out of recent practices. That didn't slow the Colonels down with both on the court for the decisive shot.
Nic is a good three-point shooter, to be honest with you, Rickrode said. He was starting to become a pretty decent scorer before he got hurt. And he picks and pops decent.
I've known the kid since he was in high school – I know he can make that shot, Woodruff said. We didn't do a good job of rotating from the weak side and he got a clean look. Give him credit. He made the shot.
The guys you want to take away (Breznitsky and Shovlin), we did. That means someone else has to step up for them. And in that case, Wilkins did.
Misericordia (10-10, 6-3) led by as many as eight points in the second half before Breznitsky (game-high 21 points) caught fire for the Colonels.
The senior guard scored nine points of an 11-0 run that put Wilkes back on top in the second. And after Misericordia snagged the lead back on an 8-0 run, Breznitsky went right back to work with eight more points.
Free throws by Ware (19 points, 11 rebounds) had the Cougars up 66-64 in the final minute, setting the stage for Wilkins. But Woodruff was disappointed his team was in that situation to begin with.
Matt Greene and (17 points) and Anthony Sergio (12) had combined for eight threes in the first half to build a 42-37 lead for the Cougars at the break. Misericordia finished 9-of-17 from behind the arc and was playing well in a fast-paced game with 15 lead changes.
But turnovers cost the Cougars, who finished with 22 on the night, including 14 in the second half
We had open guys turn the ball over, Woodruff said. Open guys should shoot, and we had open guys throwing the ball to the other team.
Twenty-two turnovers will get you beat.
MISERICORDIA (66): Sean Bieski 1-3 0-2 2, Jesse Urich 0-3 0-0 0, Matt Greene 6-11 0-1 17, Steve Ware 8-13 3-5 19, Justin Grotevant 5-12 2-2 12, Anthony Sergio 4-7 0-0 12, Patrick Widdoss 2-4 0-0 4, Frank Vito 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 26-54 5-10 66.
WILKES (67): Tyler Breznitsky 8-16 2-4 21, Chris Shovlin 4-11 0-0 8, Pat Furst 2-6 1-2 5, Jim Brackett 2-6 0-0 4, Nic Wilkins 7-12 1-2 16, Jeremy Hartman 0-0 0-0 0, Devin Dunn 2-2 1-2 5, Cameron Hinkel 2-3 1-1 5, Steve Stravinski 1-3 0-0 3, Cliff Richardson 0-0 0-1 0, Brendan Sheldon 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-59 6-12 67.
Halftime— Misericordia, 42-37
3-point field goals— MU 9-17 (Greene 5-9, Sergio 4-5, Urich 0-3); WU 5-15 (Breznitsky 3-5, Wilkins 1-1, Stravinski 1-2, Furst 0-1, Brackett 0-1, Shovlin 0-5)