By: Tyler Smith, '18
(LATROBE, Pa.) – The second-seeded Thomas More College men's basketball team won its first Presidents' Athletic Conference (PAC) championship since 2009 tonight (Saturday, February 25, 2017) as it defeated top-seeded Saint Vincent College, 79-68, in the championship game of the PAC Championship Tournament at the Carey Center in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.
In the first half it was a back and forth battle that ended 40-34 at the half. Thomas More jumped out to an early 7-0 lead and looked like a team that has been in this position before. Both teams were hot from behind the three-point line, Thomas More was seven-of-11 and Saint Vincent was five-of-seven. Sophomore guard Damion King (Winchester, Ky./George Rogers Clark) was the leading scorer for the Saints in the first half as he was seven-of-10 from the field, including five-for-five from beyond the three-point line to finish with 20 points in the first half. For the Bearcats, Jason Capco went six-ofeven from the field , including three-for-three from beyond the three-point line to finish the first half with 15 points.
Thomas More started the second half with the lead and would not relinquish it once on it/s way to an outstanding team victory. Sophomore guard Brandon Horne (Louisville, Ky./Male) was clutch in the last four minutes pulling down two offensive rebounds around the 3:57 mark that resulted with two made free-throws. Then with one-minute to play left sophomore forward Ralph Stone (Shelbyville, Ky./Martha Layne Collings) kicked it out to Horne off the dribble drive and Horne connected with a three right in front of his bench to give his team a 75-66 lead which would be enough in the end.
The Saints had eight players put a tally in the scoring column tonight and were led by King, who finished with a game-high 24 points, while pulling down seven rebounds and dishing out five assists. Along with King, Horne had 10 points, four rebounds and seven assists, sophomore guard Ryne Callahan (Morehead, Ky./Rowan County) had 12 points and Stone finished the game with 10 points and eight assists.
Talking with the Player of the Game, Damion King, we asked him to tell us about the game and what he and his team achieved tonight and he told us, "We all played hard and we just stayed together throughout the whole game and grinded out the win."
We also talked to the solo senior on the team Sawyer Pauly (Crescent Springs, Ky./Covington Catholic) and asked him what this meant to him with it being his last year and finally winning a PAC title, "I'm honestly lost for words right now, but the one thing I can say is I couldn't ask for anything else and I wouldn't have wanted to do this with any other set of guys. I have been here for four years and every year Saint Vincent had got the best of us. We have worked so hard all year and it has paid off and I couldn't be happier for this group of guys right now."
With the win, the Saints improve to 22-6 and earn the PAC automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament. The NCAA Division III Championship bracket will be announced on Monday (February 27) on the NCAA Championship website (www.ncaa.com) at 12:30 p.m.