MIDDLETOWN, Pa.- Penn State Harrisburg's men's basketball team accomplished more in its 2011-2012 campaign than it had in any season since re-forming the program in the fall of 2005. The Lions won a school-record 20 games, including non-conference victories over some of the best competition in the mid-state area, and clinched their first ever North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) South Division title. Unfortunately, the Lions fell just short of achieving their number one goal: winning the NEAC championship tournament and earning an automatic bid to the NCAA's Division III tournament.
Penn State Harrisburg dropped its second consecutive conference final to Morrisville State by a slim four-point margin on Sunday, Feb. 26. The Mustangs, the NEAC North Division champs and the tourney's host school, defeated the blue and white 76-72 and denied the Lions their first ever NCAA berth.
Morrisville led early and the Mustangs grabbed their largest advantage of the afternoon when senior guard Kyle Gordon (Riverhead, NY/Riverhead) hit a three-ball to make it 18-11 with 13:15 remaining in the first half.
But the blue and white made a push late in the half and Kenton Alston's (Harrisburg, PA/Steel-High) old-fashioned three-point play with just four seconds left on the clock gave the visitors a 40-39 lead at intermission.
Things were tight the rest of the way and Penn State Harrisburg took a big hit when all-conference first-team selection Steve Jones (Harrisburg, PA/Harrisburg) fouled out with 12:18 left in the game.
Despite being shorthanded, the Lions took control and pushed their advantage to seven when freshman Amani Glenn (Harrisburg, PA/Central Dauphin East) hit a jumper from beyond the arc with just 4:55 remaining.
But Morrisville refused to go away. The home team kept its poise and eventually knotted things up at 72 when NEAC Player of the Year Mickey Davis (Syracuse, NY/Jamesville-Dewitt) netted a layup with 1:40 left in regulation. The Mustangs scored the game's final four points while the Lions failed to covert on their last three possessions.
Davis recorded game-high totals of 22 points and 14 rebounds while four other Morrisville players reached the double-digit scoring mark.
Glenn led the way for Penn State Harrisburg, netting 18 points, including 12 from downtown, to go along with his six boards. In his final game, Alston scored 14, pulled in six rebounds and recorded a game-high four blocks. Dave Reisinger (Harrisburg, PA/Central Dauphin East), also playing his last game, added 12 points in a gutsy performance one day after missing the Lions' semifinal victory over Wells due to illness.
Jordan Gatchell (Manheim, PA/Manheim Central) chipped in with eight tallies, seven boards and a game-high six assists. Will Doyle (Franklin, VA/Tidewater Academy) corralled a team-high nine boards to go along with his six points and five assists. Jones, the Lions' leading-scorer, was held to just six points in 13 minutes of playing time.
Penn State Harrisburg finished the year with an overall record of 20-7 and 12-2 in conference play. The only NEAC foe the Lions failed to beat were the Mustangs of Morrisville State.
As much as Sunday's heartbreaking loss lingers at the moment, this year's Penn State Harrisburg squad will be remembered for setting the bar extremely high for all teams that follow it. The blue and white picked up first time wins over local foes Elizabethtown, Messiah, Susquehanna and Lebanon Valley for the first time in the program's existence and provided the school with another banner to be hung in rafters of the Capital Union Building. Simply put, the 2011-2012 Lions will go down as the most successful group to date.