DALLAS — Just making the playoffs wasn’t going to be enough. In a wide-open conference, Misericordia is looking for home-court advantage.
By polishing off a season sweep of King’s on Tuesday, the Cougars are still in line to return to the Anderson Center next week.
A 78-63 win for the Cougars clinched a playoff spot with a shot to still host a Freedom Conference semifinal game next week. The Monarchs, meanwhile, were eliminated from the postseason race with the loss because of tiebreakers that FDU-Florham and Manhattanville hold over them.
Misericordia is in position to claim the No. 2 seed with a win Saturday at Manhattanville — a big difference from having to travel to Purchase, N.Y., needing a win just to make the postseason.
“You try not to think about it coming into the game. You just want to focus on what we’re doing,” Cougars coach Trevor Woodruff said. “But you’re thinking about getting on a bus (Saturday) trying to drive up there and beat a (Manhattanville) team that beat you pretty thoroughly the first time. And having to win as opposed to playing to win. Two different things.
“So we feel good about this win. Any time you beat (King’s), it’s a good win.”
Misericordia (14-10, 8-5 Freedom) had survived to beat King’s in overtime last month in Wilkes-Barre. Tuesday’s showdown had the feel of another tight one until Cougars guard Matt Greene broke things open with back-to-back threes midway through the second half.
“He seems to be an energy guy for us,” Woodruff said. “When he’s going, everybody seems to feed off him. And typically it’s a three-pointer when he’s making a bucket.”
The shots keyed a 12-2 run for Misericordia as a 48-47 game turned into a 60-49 Cougars lead. From there, it was a coast to the final buzzer.
Greene finished with 21 points (6-for-9 from deep) on senior night as the lone senior on the Cougars roster.
Junior Steve Ware turned in his second huge performance against King’s this season, collecting 26 points and eight rebounds.
King’s was led by Kyle Hammonds, who wasn’t able to suit up in the first meeting with the Cougars. This time he led King’s with 21 points and eight rebounds. Reigning conference player of the week Dan Rutecki scored 12 while Joe Caffrey had 11.
The seniors, Hammonds and Caffrey, both hit big shots in the first half as the Monarchs (13-11, 6-7) looked to have the edge on the floor in the early going.
“We were playing very well in the first half,” King’s coach J.P. Andrejko said. “I thought we did a lot of good things. … I just thought we lost some energy in the second half.”
Misericordia went several minutes without a bucket during the first half, but the Cougars were able to get to the foul line to help offset that, hitting 13-of-19 free throws to forge a 37-37 tie at the break.
The Cougars were 26-of-34 from the stripe for the game.
Then, as Greene heated up for Misericordia, King’s shooters cooled down. The Monarchs turned in an 0-for-11 showing from behind the arc in the second half, unable to climb back into the game.
“We had one goal, and that was to win tonight,” Andrejko said. “Unfortunately, we just didn’t play well enough to do it.”
KING’S (63) — Alex Cardoza 0-1 0-0 0, Joe Caffrey 4-12 2-2 11, Kyle Hammonds 8-17 4-4 21, Tom Heston 3-5 0-0 6, Dan Rutecki 4-11 4-7 12, Nate Oliver 1-5 0-0 3, Rich Douglas 0-0 0-0 0, Connor Hughes 1-4 0-2 2, John Dini 2-5 0-0 4, Dalton Ell 0-0 0-0 0, Pat O’Donnell 2-3 0-0 4. Totals 25-63 10-15 63.
MISERICORDIA (78) — Joe Busacca 2-5 5-6 10, Matt Greene 6-10 3-5 21, Griffin Sponaugle 2-4 0-0 5, Steve Ware 6-11 14-15 26, Erik Kerns 4-5 2-6 10, Michael Brunson 0-0 0-0 0, Anthony Sergio 0-4 0-0 0, Patrick Widdoss 1-2 0-0 2, Tyler Bernath 0-1 0-0 0, Cael Evans 1-4 2-2 4. Totals 22-46 26-34 78.
Halftime — Tied, 37-37
Three-point field goals — KC 3-20 (Oliver 1-4, Caffrey 1-5, Hammonds 1-9, Hughes 0-1, Dini 0-1); MU 8-17 (Greene 6-9, Busacca 1-2, Sponaugle 1-3, Sergio 0-3)