LANCASTER, Pa. – After falling to No. 9 Franklin & Marshall in the season opener the day before, Penn State Harrisburg bounced back nicely and picked up its first victory of the year, an 85-77 decision over Western Connecticut State on the final day of the Lancaster Rotary Tip-Off Tournament on Saturday, Nov. 17.
The Colonials got on the board first but the Blue and White grabbed an early lead when freshman forward Arick Sodini (Manalapan, N.J. / St. John Vianney) knocked down a three-ball at the 17:53 mark. The Lions would not trail the rest of the way.
Western Connecticut made it tough on Penn State Harrisburg and hung around for the rest of the half. It took the Lions nearly 16 minutes to up their lead to more than six points.
Alberto De Los Santos (Enola, Pa. / East Pennsboro) gave the Blue and White some breathing room before the first half buzzer. The sophomore's trifecta as time expired gave his squad a 49-40 advantage heading into the break.
But the Colonials refused to go down quietly. After trailing by as many as nine on four separate occasions in the second half, Western Connecticut State cut the deficit to just one-point when Joseph Groski hit a layup with 11:18 left in the ballgame.
Penn State Harrisburg Head Coach Mike Gaffey used a timeout to refocus his team and his players responded nicely.
Junior Will Doyle (Franklin, Va. / Tidewater Academy) converted two foul shots and pushed the Lions lead to 71-64 with 7:35 remaining.
Four minutes later, senior point guard Jordan Gatchell (Manheim, Pa. / Manheim Central) laid-up a shot that increased Harrisburg's advantage to eight points.
Playing from behind, the Colonials were forced to foul down the stretch. De Los Santos and Doyle made good on their free-throws and Western Connecticut never caught up.
Consistency was key on this night as all five Penn State Harrisburg starters reached double-digits. For the second straight-game, Doyle was the team's leading scorer with a game-high 18 points. Sodini, starting the first game of his collegiate career, added 15 and De Los Santos scored 14. Gatchell and junior Julius Brown (McComb, Miss. / McComb) netted 13 tallies apiece.
Sophomores Kevin Icker (Scranton, Pa. / Scranton Prep) and Joey Farthing (Lancaster, Pa. / Hempfield) added seven and five points, respectively, off the bench. Brown was the team's leading-rebounder with six while Gatchell filled out his stat sheet nicely with five boards, five steals and four assists on his way to being named to the all-tournament team.
The win evened the men's record at 1-1 on the year. Penn State Harrisburg gets two days to prepare for another monster of an opponent in Division II Millersville. The Lions will face the Marauders in their third-consecutive road game this Tuesday, Nov. 20.