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Free throw mayhem at Salisbury

Wyatt Smith finished with 12 points in the CAC final, going 6-for-7 from the foul line.
Salisbury athletics photo

There was nothing but drama, excitement and celebration in Salisbury over the weekend. Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams hosted Capital Athletic Conference tournament finals. Both teams won in thrilling fashion. It’s been more than a decade since either team made the NCAA Tournament, and now both are dancing.

First up were the women, facing a 20-win Mary Washington squad who would not go away. Down three with 16 seconds remaining, senior Melanie Mocniak was fouled on a 3-point attempt. She knocked down all three shots then proceeded to block Mary Washington’s winning attempt to send the game into overtime.

Then, with less than 30 seconds in overtime, Mocniak went to the line for three free throws, down three, and again hit them all. A basket more for each squad sent the game into a second overtime period, where the Gulls pushed ahead for a six-point win.

Following that excitement, the men hosted Christopher Newport for their chance at an automatic bid. This game, too, came down to the wire. Trailing by one with 12 seconds to play, Wyatt Smith grabbed a huge defensive rebound then hustled down the floor to accept an entry pass and get off a shot at the buzzer. It missed, but a foul was called with 0.7 seconds showing on the board. He stepped to the line and knocked down both. After a deflected inbounds pass, it was time to cut down the nets.

“The buzz generated with the women certainly didn’t hurt us,” said men’s coach and alum, Josh Merkel about the atmosphere in the arena, “I wish every game could be like that.”

His team is looking at a long drive to Trinity in Connecticut to face a strong Eastern Connecticut team in the first round. “I haven’t seen video yet, but I know we played then two years ago and they kicked our tail. Their coach, Bill Geitner, has my utmost respect. His team has been very good for a very long time.”

The Salisbury men are very young, with just one senior in the main rotation. “We have two guys who started last year as freshmen. Investing minutes in those guys has really paid off,” says Merkel. The youth showed in a 2-4 start to the season, but the team rounded into form when it counted. “We try to schedule as tough a non-conference schedule as we can and it’s really helped our guys a lot. There’s no one they’re afraid to play.”

The women’s team is a different story. Full of senior...

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Columnist

Ryan Scott

Ryan Scott is a long-time D-III basketball supporter and former player currently residing in Middletown, Del., where he serves as a work-at-home dad, doing freelance writing and editing projects. He has written for multiple publications across a wide spectrum of topics. Ryan is a graduate of Eastern Nazarene College and is immensely happy this is no longer a laugh line among the D-III basketball community.
2013-14 columnist: Rob Knox
2012-13 columnist: Pete Barrett
2011-12 columnist: Brian Lester

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