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Hofstra gets even with William & Mary, advances to CAA final

From left, Hofstra's Brian Bernardi, Denton Koon, Ameen

From left, Hofstra's Brian Bernardi, Denton Koon, Ameen Tanksley and Juan'ya Green react in the final seconds of their team's 70-67 win over William & Mary in a Colonial Athletic Association men's college basketball tournament semifinal in Baltimore, Sunday, March 6, 2016. Credit: Steve Ruark

BALTIMORE — There was a second act for Hofstra, and while it was eerily similar to last season’s loss to William & Mary on a buzzer-beater in double overtime in the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament semifinals, the rematch had a happy ending this time for the Pride.

A year ago, exhausted Tribe star Marcus Thornton gave up the last shot and passed to Daniel Dixon for a three-pointer with eight-tenths of a second remaining that erased a two-point Hofstra lead. On Sunday afternoon at Royal Farms Arena, fatigued Hofstra star Juan’ya Green drove to the basket and dished to Denton Koon for the go-ahead score with 8.5 seconds left in Hofstra’s 70-67 victory.

Green is the CAA player of the year, but when he drove with the score tied at 67, CAA defensive player of the year Terry Tarpey stepped up to meet him. “It was just instinct,” Green said. “I was trying to get the layup, but I saw Tarpey itching to try to get the steal. So once he stepped out, I just dished it off to Denton.”

After Koon converted the layup for a two-point lead, the Tribe’s David Cohn missed a three-point shot that was rebounded by Hofstra’s Ameen Tanksley. He was fouled with 1.9 seconds left and made one of his two free throws, and the Tribe failed to get off another shot.

It was the eighth straight win for top-seeded Hofstra (24-8), which advanced to the title game tonight against second-seeded North Carolina Wilmington (24-7), which scored a 73-70 win over Northeastern (18-15) in the other semifinal. But more than anything else, it was redemption for a loss last year that Hofstra coach Joe Mihalich said he will take to his grave.

“Yes. The answer is yes,” Mihalich said in the postgame news conference. “We thought about this game for 363 days. It was a heartbreaking loss, the kind that stays with you. We were glad to have a chance to make up for it.”

Tanksley led Hofstra with 23 points and provided the inside scoring that went missing from center Rokas Gustys, who battled foul trouble all game and took only one shot for two points, though he had 13 rebounds.

Green and Brian Bernardi each had 14 points and combined to make seven of 18 three-pointers, and Koon totaled 10 points.

Greg Malinowski topped William & Mary (20-11) with 22 points and Dixon added 10.

The lead changed hands 11 times and there were eight ties. Back-to-back three-pointers by Dixon and Malinowski began an 8-0 run that put the Tribe ahead 67-65 with 2:54 left.

Mihalich said the Pride wasn’t efficient on offense but “refused to lose . . . It was the resiliency of this team, the composure and the maturity we’ve had from these guys all year long. Nobody got rattled. There were a lot of mood swings, and we kept our cool down the stretch.”

Green has played all but six minutes of the past 11 games and was worn down against the Tribe from playing a great game at both ends of the floor with six rebounds, five assists, two blocks and a steal. But with the score tied at 56, he scored seven of Hofstra’s last 14 points and made the winning play to Koon.

As Tribe coach Tony Shaver said, “That’s why he’s the best player in the league. I haven’t admired a player more than him. He makes the right play 99 percent of the time.”

Green was just relieved to shake the bad memory from a year ago. “That one shot played in the back of our heads all season,” he said of last year’s loss to the Tribe. “It was a great game last year, and we came up short on one possession, but today, we got the win. I’m just glad we can go to the championship.”

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