Late breaks help Rochester knock off No. 7 Marietta

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MARIETTA, Ohio — Ryan Clamage says he was just doing his job.

But the sophomore's two clutch, late rebounds are likely the reason No. 13 Rochester pulled out a come-from-behind, 85-80 victory over host Marietta in the Sectional Round of the NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Tournament Friday night at Ban Johnson Arena.

"I know Mack (Montague), Sam (Borst-Smith) and Zack (Ayers) are out there to make plays and my role is to help control the ball and to be an energy guy," said Clamage, who finished with 11 points and nine rebounds.

With the game tied at 80, Marietta's defense forced Ayers into a rushed 3-point attempt that came up empty. However, Clamage was in the right place and he grabbed the air ball and put in a reverse lay-up to give Rochester (24-4) the lead.

"Ryan Clamage came up with some huge rebounds that were really the difference," said Rochester coach Luke Flockerzi. "In this tournament you are going to play great teams and I thought you saw two good, well-coached teams absolutely battling tonight and leaving it on the floor."

Trailing by three with seven seconds to play, Marietta still had a shot to tie the game. However, a play set up for sophomore Kyle Dixon didn't materialize quite the way Marietta coach Jon VanderWal drew up during a time out. Instead, Dixon turned it over and the seventh-ranked Pioneers (26-5) season was over.

"Give Rochester credit," VanderWal said. "They came in here in a tough environment, got down double digits in the second half and they gutted it out, which most teams can't do. Usually get down in double digits here in the second half and it's over with."

Marietta led 42-37 at halftime and extended that advantage to 12 — 58-46 — with 13:22 to play. Rochester cut it back down to 58-54 before Marietta rebuilt the lead to nine at 63-54.

"Marietta scores in bunches and they are hard to play with. So playing good basketball is not enough," Flockerzi said. "We had some fortunate moments at the end of the game and that really was the difference. I really believe our guys fought for those opportunities and the bounce … luck … went our way because we just kept fighting and I couldn't be more proud of our guys."

Marietta's last lead was 68-65 on senior A.J. Edwards 3-pointer with 6:29 to play. Edwards finished 22 points and nine rebounds. On the next possession, Ayers hit a 3-pointer to tie the game and then hit another one 40 seconds later that gave Rochester a 71-68 lead.

The best Marietta could do was tie the game at 73, 76 and 80.

"That's what's cruel about this game," VanderWal said. "Sometimes it just comes down to the way the ball bounces."

Marietta senior RaNeal Ewing finished his career with a 22-point effort, including 15 in the first half.

For Rochester, Montague made six 3-pointers to become the Yellowjackets all-time leader in that category with 230. He finished with 27 points, while Borst-Smith added 17 points and Ayers had 13.

Rochester faces No. 1 ranked Whitman (30-0) at 7 p.m. Saturday for a spot in the Final Four at Salem, Va.