’Wick Outlasts Fisher 93-91 in the Empire 8 Championship; Hawks Headed to Fourth NCAA Tournament in Six Years

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            ROCHESTER, NY – Hartwick let a 26-point lead slip away but the Hawks wouldn't buckle down the stretch, hitting key shots when they needed them in a 93-91 victory over St. John Fisher in the Empire 8 Championship game Saturday at Bobby Wanzer Court. The league title is the Hawks' third in the last six years after securing the crown in both 2011 and 2014.
            With the victory, the Hawks snap Fisher's 28-game winning streak at Wanzer Court and earn the Empire 8's automatic berth into the NCAA Division III Tournament. It marks the fourth appearance in the "Big Dance" in the last six seasons and the program's nineteenth overall.
            'Wick will learn where it is headed and its opponent on Monday at 12:30 p.m. when the tournament field is unveiled.
            Tournament Most Valuable Player Jake Sinicki (Endicott, NY/Maine Endwell) had 21 first-half points for the Hawks, connecting on 8-of-9 shots. He finished with a team-high 26. Sinicki, Joey Lufkin (Argyle, NY/Argyle), and Trevor Norton (Mullica Hill, NJ/Ursinus College) combined for 72 of the Hawks' points in the contest. Lufkin had a double-double with 24 points and 10 assists with Norton contributing 22 points.
            Once again, the Hawks came through from the free-throw line as they finished with a 20-of-24 (83%) showing, including a 12-of-13 (92%) performance in the second half. In the two tournament games, they would make 38-of-44 from the stripe for a team percentage of 86.4%.
            Hartwick could not have started better in the game as they grabbed a 9-6 lead and then erupted for a 26-3 run over an eight-minute span for a 35-9 advantage with 9:23 left in the half. The Hawks would shoot 75% from the floor in the opening 12 minutes of the game on 15-of-20 shooting.
            'Wick led by 20 or more for the next four and a half minutes. The Cardinals chipped away at the lead deep in the period, scoring 17 of the final 24 points in the last 3:30 to trim the gap to 13 points at halftime, 53-40.
            The Hawks were in front 58-49 with 13:35 remaining in the second half, but a 20-9 Fisher run gave the hosts their first lead, 69-67, since it was 4-2 forty-nine seconds into the game. It would mark the first of four lead changes in the next three minutes. The Cardinal margin was increased to five, 72-67, before back-to-back three-pointers from Justin Pratt (North Kingstown, RI/North Kingstown) and Lufkin put 'Wick back on top, 73-72.
            Fisher answered at the other end and earned a 76-73 advantage with four straight points. Norton, however, would tie the score with a three-pointer and his two free throws with 4:19 remaining gave the Hawks a 78-76 lead which they would not relinquish.
            The Cardinals got as close as one point, 82-81, with 3:03 left after a Tyler English three-pointer but they got no closer. The Hawks went 9-for-10 from the foul line in the final 1:52. Fisher kept the pressure on by making three baskets in the final 13 seconds. Norton drained a pair from the line with 12 seconds to go and Sinicki did the same with five seconds remaining to make it a 93-88 lead.
            Tyler Hart hit a three to cut the Fisher deficit to two with under two seconds to play. But the Hawks got the ball in to Lufkin who eluded Cardinals defenders to run out the clock and kick off the Hartwick celebration.
            The Hawks finished the game shooting 51.7% (30-for-58) and 46.4% (13-for-28) from three-point range. The Cardinals finished at 49.2% (31-for-63) from the field and 41.4% (12-for-29) from beyond the three-point arc. Both teams were even in rebounds, 32-32.
            Sinicki, who averaged 20 points in the tournament, shot 9-of-14 in the game with four rebounds, a trio of three-pointers, two assists, and two blocks. Norton hit four threes with six rebounds. Lufkin hit 8-of-13 from the floor. The three players combined for 17-of-18 from the line.
            Brandon LaForest (Cohoes, NY/Cohoes) scored eight points and he grabbed six boards for the Hawks. Matt Wilson (Shelton, CT/Franklin & Marshall) had five points and six rebounds.
            Hart led all scorers with 35 points for Fisher. Keegan Ryan added 16 points and English ended the night with 14 points.
            The NCAA Tournament selection show can be found at: http://www.ncaa.com/liveschedule/2016/02/29. Viewing begins Monday, February 29 at 12:30 p.m.