By Paul Gotham
BUFFALO, NY – For a few moments Thursday night it appeared the Canisius Golden Griffins were all too willing to re-open some recent wounds. With a painful loss to cross-town Niagara still lingering, the Golden Griffins seemed destined to surrender another double-digit lead in the second half.
Then, with the inevitable staring them in the face, the Griffs put their experience to use.
Jordan Heath registered a near-triple-double as Canisius (14-8/7-4) built a 21-point lead and held on to defeat the reigning conference champion Loyola Greyhounds (15-8/7-4), 91-79 in Metro-Atlantic Athletic action at the Koessler Athletic Center.
“Coming back from a real emotional game against Niagara, our guys did a good job,” said Canisius head coach Jim Baron. “They were ready to go. Part of this season is you got to keep moving forward. You can’t linger on what you can’t control.”
The Griffs continued to use their lethal three-point attack to overcome some shoddy ballhandling hitting 13-of-19 (68.4 percent for the game).
“We came in very focused understanding what our game plan was,” Baron continued. “They stepped up and beat a good team tonight.”
Isaac Sosa hit two of his game-high six treys as the Griffs turned a 12-point halftime lead into a 21-point bulge.
“Jim Baron is doing a great job,” said Loyola head coach Jimmy Patsos. “They’re hitting threes. They’re playing with energy. He’s got guys playing well. They were better than us tonight.”
Sosa’s catch-and-shoot three from left corner gave Canisius a 49-35 lead. Just moments earlier the senior guard missed the second of two free throws. Chris Manhertz corralled the offensive rebound and fed Billy Baron at the top of the key. Without hesitation, Baron fired a pass to Sosa for the three.
After Jordan Heath scored consecutive baskets, Baron and Sosa combined again – this time in transition with Sosa connecting from the top of the key for a 57-41 advantage.
Alshwan Hymes stretched the lead with a pull-up three on the break. Manhertz finished a reverse layup and a pair of free throws before Billy Baron knocked down a triple for the 69-48 bulge.
Just as quickly as the Griffs gained a full head of steam, it was gone.
Robert Olson put bookends on a 13-0 run with a pair of treys as the Greyhounds eventually trimmed the lead to five.
“Bobby Olson is one of the toughest competitors I have ever coached,” Patsos said. “I really thought he showed that tonight. This has been a string for us for about three, four games now where I thought we haven’t been very emotional. The MAAC is a tough, tough league. I love the MAAC.”
Olson started the run with a trey. The Loyola press created a pair of turnovers. Eric Laster nailed a jumper. Dylon Cormier finished a scramble for a loose ball with a layup bringing on a Canisius timeout.
Olson’s next triple made it an 80-75 game.
“We knew that they were going to come back and make a run,” Baron noted. “I thought we sustained it and made the plays down the stretch.”
“We just haven’t been in the position before,” Baron said of the 21-point lead. “So that’s kinda new. If you’re up 21, you don’t know how to act.”
Jordan Heath converted a pair of charity tosses before Billy Baron knocked down a clutch pull up three.
Harold Washington sealed the victory hitting six straight free throws.
The Griffs grabbed the lead from the opening tip and led wire-to-wire using a pair of runs to build a double-digit lead in the first half.
A pair of Sosa threes paced Canisius to an early 15-point advantage.
Sosa connected on his first of four behind the arc in the opening half from the right corner. After Billy Baron connected twice from the free throw line, the junior point guard found Sosa in transition for a spot-up trey and an 18-6 Canisius advantage.
Chris Manhertz hit one of two charity tosses before the Griffs started taking advantage of their speed. Josiah Heath beat the Loyola defense up the floor, and Alshwan Hymes rewarded the 6-9 forward with a lead pass for a layup.
Jordan Heath followed on the next possession, and Billy Baron found him for the bucket at the rim forcing one of five Loyola timeouts called in the opening stanza.
It was Sosa’s turn to assist, and he led Harold Washington for a trifecta and a 38-23 bulge.
Loyola nibbled away at the lead.
Dylon Cormier followed a miss for a rebound and putback.
Robert Olson stepped in a passing lane for a steal and finished at the opposite end.
After Sosa connected for three to push the lead back to 14, Julius Brooks finished a rebound and putback. Olson followed with a layup in transition reducing the Canisius lead to 10 at 41-31.
Reggie Groves nailed a pull-up jumper in the half’s closing seconds for the 43-31 halftime count.
Jordan Heath led the Griffs with 21 points and 11 rebounds. The junior center added seven blocks.
Sosa added nineteen hitting six-of-seven behind the arc.
Billy Baron registered 16 points and a game-high seven assists.
Washington chipped in 13 and Manhertz, 11.
Canisius committed 16 turnovers on the night while handing out 16 assists.
Olson led all scorers with 27. Etherly and Cormier had 13 apiece.
The Greyhounds will play at first-place Niagara, Saturday afternoon.
Canisius led Niagara by 10 last Sunday before falling, 66-65.
The Griffs host Iona Saturday night. Tip time at the KAC is 7 p.m.