By Chris McManes
WASHINGTON – In a battle of two teams that advanced to the second round of last year's NCAA Tournament, SUNY Cortland was a little better than Catholic University on Saturday afternoon.
The Red Dragons lost an eight-point lead with under eight minutes to go but regrouped by scoring 11 of the final 16 points in a 62-56 victory over the Cardinals in the opening round of the CUA-Holiday Inn College Park Classic at DuFour Center.
Cortland (5-3) will play Misericordia (4-5) for the championship on Sunday at 4 p.m. The Cardinals (5-5) will meet St. Joseph's of Maine (4-4) for third place at 2 p.m.
Kevin McMahon paced the Red Dragons with 19 points and 15 rebounds, and Blair Estarfaa added 18 points and eight boards. Cortland, which won its first four games, snapped a three-game losing streak.
Cortland, which led almost the entire game, took its biggest lead of the second half, 48-40, with 7:53 to play. CUA turned up the defensive pressure in a 9-1 outburst to knot the contest at 49. Kyle Phanord hit a 3-pointer from the left corner to slice the lead to 49-45 and then stole the ball at midcourt, was fouled and hit two free throws.
Kevin Phanord, Kyle's twin, followed by taking two charges sandwiched around a baseline layup. He added two free throws to tie the game at 51 with 2:46 remaining.
T.J. Hefele picked a good time to hit his only basket of the game, a trey from the right wing to put the Red Dragons on top, 54-51, at the 1:05 mark. Hefele finished 1-for-7 overall and 1 of 6 from downtown.
After Limberiou - 4 of 11 from beyond the arc – misfired on a triple, Lamard Herron drove hard to the basket for a layup and completed the three-point play to make it 57-51 with under 30 seconds remaining. Cortland sealed the win by making five of its final six from the line.
The Red Dragons assumed their largest lead of the contest, 20-11, with 8:57 left before the break. The Cards responded with a 10-2 run and went into halftime trailing, 28-23. Cortland never trailed in the second half.
Both teams took care of the ball well; the Cards committed 10 turnovers and the Red Dragons nine. Shooting was another story. Cortland ended 23 of 65 (35.4 percent) and CUA was 19 of 54 (35.2 percent).
NOTES – Cael Evans scored 13 points off the bench and had eight rebounds in Misericordia's 68-65 victory over St. Joseph's. Steve Ware had 11 points, four assists and four rebounds, and Matt Greene added 10 points and four assists. Erik Kerns made all six of his free throws and finished with 10 points. Nicholas Jobin led the Monks with a game-high 23 points and eight boards, and Matt Medeiros scored 20. … George Washington Coach Mike Lonergan and two of his sons, Mike Jr. and Moe, were at courtside. The CUA men were guests of Lonergan's Friday night when the 12-2 Colonials throttled Georgia, 73-55. Lonergan, who coached the Cardinals from 1992-2004 and led his 2000-01 team to the only team national championship in school history, is in his third year at GW. ... CUA will honor its 1963-64 Mason-Dixon Conference Championship team Feb. 15. Tom Young, who coached the Cards before enjoying his greatest success at Rutgers, will attend, as will Bill Leahy, CUA's all-time leading rebounder. Cardinal basketball alumni from all eras are invited to the 50th-anniversary celebration.