The Wilmington University men's basketball team is heading back to the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference Tournament after posting a 70-65 victory over crosstown rival Goldey-Beacom on Wednesday night at the Joseph West Jones Center.
The win puts the Wildcats (9-18, 8-10 CACC) two games ahead of the Lightning (8-18, 5-12 CACC) in the loss column with only one game left to play, securing the fourth and final playoff berth in the CACC South Division. It is the first time since the 2009-10 season that the Wildcats will be participating in the CACC Tournament and only the second time in program history.
It was a short run at the end of the first half that sparked the Wildcats, as they scored the final four point of the half to head into the locker room only down 27-26.
Tyrik Gass started his dominant second half with a layup right out of the gate, putting the visitors up 28-27 for the first time in the contest. A Tyaire Ponzo-Meek three-pointer gave the Wildcats a 34-27 lead before another offensive rebound and put back layup by Gass gave the Wildcats a nine-point lead with 16:43 to play.
After the Lightning cut the deficit to as few as five points, the Wildcats opened up an 11-point lead on a 6-0 spurt, sparked by a Kevin Ohen fastbreak dunk and capped by a jumper from Ponzo-Meek with 11:23 to play.
Rashaun Rasheed gave the Wildcats their largest lead of the game at 52-40 with 6:58 to play, but the Lightning would not go down easily.
Trailing by 10 points with less than four minute to play, the Lightning scored five straight to make it 56-51 with 3:19 left. A Joey Getz three-pointer cut the Lightning deficit to as little at 64-61 with 37 seconds left but Ponzo-Meek responded with a pair of free throws to keep the home team at bay. Getz again laid one home for the Lightning with 20 seconds left, but Sam Sanders responded with two more from the foul line to give the Wildcats a 68-63 lead once again.
Rasheed put the final nail in the Lightning's coffin with a layup on an in-bounds play to give the Wildcats a 70-63 lead with only 13 seconds to play.
Gass led the Wildcats with his first double-double of the season, scoring 14 points and grabbing a game high 13 rebounds while also taking a timely charge with 15 seconds left. Gas scored 10 points and grabbed nine rebounds, six of which came on the offensive glass, in the second half alone. Tyaire Ponzo-Meek led the Wildcats with 18 points while Valentino Thompson added 13 points.
The Wildcats shot 44.4 percent from the floor in the second half to finish at 40.3 percent for the game, going 5-of-21 from deep. The Lightning hit 46 percent of their shots for the game, going 6-of-19 from beyond the three-point arc. The Wildcats took 17 more shots from the floor in the game, in large part to a 22-6 advantage on the offensive glass. The Wildcats out-rebounded the Lightning, 47-29, in the game.
The Wildcats close out the regular season with a home game against Caldwell on Saturday. The CACC Tournament starts with the Quarterfinal round on Saturday, February 28, at the higher seed.