Jesuit Upset In Semifinal


First, Glenville State and now, Notre Dame.

In two of the first three years of the Mountain East Conference men’s basketball tournament, underdogs have upset their way to the title game.

Senior guard Tyree Gaiter poured in 39 points, hitting 10 of his 15 shot attempts and all 16 of his free throw tries, in the Falcons’ 76-68 victory over Wheeling Jesuit (28-3), second-seeded in the tournament and fourth-ranked in the National Association of Basketball Coaches’ Poll.

“We’ve been playing these playoff games for the last three weeks,” said Notre Dame coach Tim Koenig, whose team will receive the MEC’s first automatic bid with a victory over Concord in Sunday’s tournament final at 3:30 p.m. “When we were ranked 10th in the region, they were playoff games, so it’s good we have some practice.”
The Falcons (21-10) lost four of their last six regular season games, which included a 16-point loss at home to Fairmont, a 10-point defeat at Concord and a 20-point home loss to Wheeling Jesuit. Notre Dame eliminated Fairmont, the tournament’s third seed and nation’s fifth-ranked team, on Thursday in the quarterfinals.
Last year, fifth-seeded Glenville eliminated West Liberty (No. 1 seed) and Fairmont (No. 2) in winning the second MEC tournament.

For Notre Dame’s part, the Falcons were guided by a smallish guard in Gaiter, who is listed at a generous 5-foot-7.

His 39 points came on a 10-15 performance from the field and 16-16 from the foul line. He added five rebounds and added four assists while detecting gaps in an otherwise staunch Wheeling Jesuit defense.

“Their help defense is one of the best in the league,” Gaiter said. “When we start going one-high ball screen, it opens the lanes for me. I knew once I could get in there, I could find one of our big guys when they collapsed on me.”

Sophomore Will Vorhees was the recipient of some of those passes. The 6-8 forward made just four of his 16 shot attempts, but finished with 1 points and 10 rebounds. Ja’Sean Lewis had 12 rebounds for Notre Dame and senior Ryan Hickoff had 12 points and five rebounds without a turnover.

“They beat us in hustle plays, tied us on the boards and won in toughness plays … the 50-50 plays that are so crucial in meaningful games,” Wheeling Jesuit coach Danny Sancomb said. “They dominated us.”
Justin Fritts led Wheeling Jesuit with 18 points and Eric Siefert added 11. Haywood Highsmith had 10 points but he and Siefert combined to shoot 8-23 from the field.

The Cardinals entered the game as the No. 1 team in the Atlantic Region and are expected to remain there and host the regional tournament at the McDonough Center.

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