By Paul Gotham
BUFFALO, NY – The outcome of Thursday night’s MAAC men’s matchup at the Koessler Athletic Center came as no surprise. The means by which the teams arrived at the result might have raised a few eyebrows.
Billy Baron and Harold Washington combined for 45 points as the Canisius Golden Griffins (18-11/11-6) needed overtime to defeat St. Peter’s Peacocks (9-19/3-14), 77-65 in Metro-Atlantic Athletic Conference play.
Baron and Washington tallied 13 of 16 Canisius points in extra time.
“We’re finding ways to win basketball games,” said Canisius head coach Jim Baron. “I can’t be more proud of the kids.”
Playing without starting forward Jordan Heath, the Griffs were the one who looked to have the fresher legs during the extra period.
Yvon Raymond spotted the Peacocks a quick lead in overtime with a layup in traffic, but the Griffs quickly responded with Washington and Isaac Sosa hitting back-to-back threes on Chris Manhertz kick outs from the post.
Baron took over from there drawing contact coming off a ball screen. The junior guard nailed both free throws for a 69-65 Canisius lead. He followed with a pair of spectacular drives to the basket on consecutive plays to put the game out of reach.
“He made plays,” the elder Baron said of his son and star point guard. “They (St. Peter’s) were very physical, very aggressive, and he made some terrific plays to the bucket. I couldn’t be more proud.”
Leading by four, Billy Baron came off a Manhertz pick at the top of the key, eluded a defender with a crossover dribble and weaved through traffic before kissing the ball off the glass for a 71-65 lead. One possession later, he gained an advantage on the wing and finished with another layup.
“He did a terrific job,” Washington said of his teammate. “He put pressure on the defense. They were in the double bonus, and I think they were a little tentative to foul him. He got to the rim and made plays.”
Neither team had a lead greater than three for much of the second half. Not until Blaise Ffrench nailed a catch-and-shoot three on the break did St. Peter’s take a five-point lead with 5:11 remaining in regulation.
Canisius swiftly responded with eight straight.
Manhertz and Baron executed a pick and roll with the Manhertz finishing at the rim and getting to the line for a traditional three-point play. On the next trip, Baron drew contact on a jumper. His two charity tosses tied the score at 58.
The MAAC’s leading assist man gave Canisius the lead with 1:19 to go when he came off a stagger screen at the top of the key and pulled up for the trifecta.
Just as soon the Griffs looked in control, St. Peter’s battled back. Raymond drained a trey from the top to tie it. The Peacocks missed a chance to win at the buzzer when Ffrench’s lay up kicked off the rim.
Desi Washington capped a sluggish first 20 with a pull-up three moments before the horn sounded to give the St. Peter’s a one-point at 29-28 going into the break.
Darius Conley paced St. Peter’s early as the Peacocks took advantage of early Canisius shooting woes to jump to 7-2 lead. Yvon Raymond led Conley in the post for an easy lay in. Conley hit one of two from the free throw on the next trip before slipping a ball screen at the top of the key on the next possession for the deuce and a 5-2 lead. Ffrench nailed a catch-and-shoot jumper for the 7-2 edge.
The Golden Griffins battled back. Washington converted a rebound and putback. Billy Baron scored on a follow-up cutting the lead to one. Baron gave the Griffs their first lead of the contest when he grabbed a loose ball and finished at the rim.
St. Peter’s responded with an 8-2 run to grab a six-point advantage.
Elias Desport scored on a rebound and putback. Chazz Patterson led Raymond into the open for a jumper. Raymond made it 17-13 with a layup. Desport hit a runner in the lane, and the Peacocks had their largest lead of the first stanza at 19-13.
Washington swiped a pass coming out of the post and went end-to-end for two.
Josiah Heath hit a pair of charity tosses and followed with an offensive rebound and basket. Baron took a handoff from Freddy Asprilla at the top of the key and nailed a three-pointer for a 23-20 lead. Isaac Sosa connected behind the arc to give Canisius its largest lead of the half at 26-22.
Canisius scored nine points on eight first half turnovers by St. Peter’s.
Baron led all scorers with 23 on seven-of-13 shooting from the floor and two-of-five behind the arc. He added a game-high four assists.
Washington followed with 22 going eight-of-14 and hitting all three of his three-point attempts.
Manhertz and Sosa chipped in a dozen apiece. Manhertz led all with nine rebounds.
The Griffs played without starting forward Jordan Heath who was injured last Saturday in a game against Vermont. Heath averages nearly 10 points with more than six rebounds.
Canisius beat St. Peter’s, 68-59 12 days ago in Jersey City. The season sweep marks the first for the Griffs over the Peacocks since the 2006-07 campaign.
Canisius reached 11 MAAC regular season wins. A feat not accomplished for the Blue and Gold since 1998-99.
Washington scored 18 for St. Peter’s. Raymond went for 16, and Darius Conley scored 14.
The Peacocks lost eight straight MAAC games earlier this season.
With the win and a loss by first-place Niagara, the Griffs still have a chance to claim the regular season MAAC title. Canisius hosts Rider Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. It will be a big day as Jim Baron and the Canisius family honor four seniors: Freddy Asprilla, Alshwan Hymes, Sosa and Washington.