The Drew University men’s basketball team ended the game on a 21-0 run and posted an incredible 60-58 come-from-behind victory over Catholic University in the semifinals of the Landmark Conference Championships Wednesday, Feb. 23 in a raucous Baldwin Gym.
With the win, the Rangers (18-8), the defending Landmark Conference champions, will meet top-seeded Susquehanna in the Landmark championship game on Saturday at 7 p.m. The River Hawks defeated Juniata 59-52 in the other semifinal on Wednesday. It will mark Drew’s third appearance in the final over the last four years.
Forward Howard McBurnie, Jr. (’23) converted an and-1 lay-up with 1.4 seconds left and finished with 12 points, 15 rebounds and four blocked shots.
Guard Lybrant Robinson (’22) enjoyed a triumphant return from injury for second-seeded Drew, posting 15 points in 23 minutes off the bench.
Jesse Hafemeister led Catholic (17-7) with 16 points.
It was a close game in the early going before Catholic used a run late in the half to go up nine (29-20) with 3:54 showing and led 34-27 at the half. The Cardinals held the Rangers scoreless for the opening four minutes of the second half and gradually pulled away before leading 52-33 with 8:11 left. Catholic’s lead would reach 19 on two more occasions, the last coming on a Hafemeister lay-up that made it 58-39 with 5:44 left. But it would turn out to be the Cardinals’ final points of the night.
After guard David Gervase (’22) hit a pair of free throws with 18 seconds left, the Rangers applied a full-court press and Michael Kane (’23) came up with a steal. Guard Malcolm Newman (’24) drove the lane in the closing seconds and lost the ball on the way up for a shot, but McBurnie grabbed it out of the air and quickly banked it in while drawing a foul with 1.4 seconds left. After a timeout, McBurnie attempted to miss the free throw to run out the clock, but he banked it in. However, Catholic’s desperation full-court pass was picked off at the buzzer and the Drew crowd stormed the court.
The comeback began at the 4:46 mark of the second half, when Newman gathered a long rebound and drove into the paint for a lay-up, drew a foul, and completed the three-point play. The Rangers would shoot a perfect 7-for-7 at the foul line during the run and made their final 14 at the stripe after missing their first seven free throws of the night.
Center Malachi Walker, Jr. (’22) got into the act when he buried a 3-pointer on a kick-out from McBurnie to make it 58-45 with 4:15 left. Drew scored its next four points at the foul line, where Gervase and Newman each went 2-for-2 to get the deficit into single digits (58-49) with 2:12 remaining.
McBurnie muscled an offensive rebound and kicked it to Robinson, who drilled a triple with 1:21 left to make it a 58-52 game. At the other end, the Rangers fouled but with the crowd bringing the noise to a blistering level, the Cardinals missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 1:05 showing. Drew then missed a 3-pointer and after Catholic rebounded, the Rangers were forced to foul again. However, the Cardinals again missed the front of a 1-and-1. Newman capitalized for Drew, sinking a step-back 3-pointer from the left wing and it was suddenly a one-possession game (58-55) with 22 ticks showing.
As they did for a large portion of the comeback, the Rangers continued to full-court press. On the ensuing possession, a Catholic ballhandler had the ball poked away in front of the Drew bench, and possession was awarded to the Blue and Green. Gervase then drove the baseline and nearly converted a reverse lay-up but was fouled, and he went on to hit both free throws, setting up the incredible finish.
The Drew men’s basketball team have their next game this Saturday, Feb. 26. Saturday’s game will feature the last two Landmark Conference men’s basketball champions, as Drew captured the title in 2021, when Susquehanna did not compete due to the COVID-19 pandemic.