WILKES-BARRE — When opponents have fallen to the Wilkes men’s basketball team this season, it’s often been a death by a thousand cuts with different Colonels contributing to the win column each and every night.
In fact, Wilkes has four players who are averaging double-figures this season — Marcus Robinson, Rob Pecorelli, Mark Mullins and Connor Evans.
Tuesday’s tilt against rival King’s was much of the same as six Colonels scored at least nine points and five finished in double-figures — with Pecorelli’s 19-point effort leading the way — en route to a 101-72 win against King’s on Tuesday.
Not only did the 29-point victory give the Colonels its sixth straight of the series, in what was the 100th meeting between the two rivals, but they clinched the top seed and home-court advantage in the upcoming MAC Freedom tournament.
“I always felt like those teams are the hardest to teams guard because they have inside-out combination, where they can throw the ball in the post and they can beat you with 3-point shooting and they can drive the ball,” Wilkes head coach Izzi Metz said. “We’ve gotten good contributions. We have a lot of complimentary players. They’re not carbon copy guys. I think that for me as a coach, it’s fun because I can kind of throw different combinations of players out there and try different things. Game-to-game we’ve matched up well with opponents and that’s good for us.”
However, the top-seed clinching victory would come at a price.
Evans, who already missed a significant amount of time earlier this season, injured his left knee with 16:41 remaining in the first half and didn’t return to the game.
The junior guard suffered the injury attempting a layup under the King’s basket.
“I don’t know about Connor to be honest. It was his knee, but I don’t know if it’s something that’s going to keep him out long-term or what,” Metz said.
The Colonels aren’t exactly known as a 3-point-shooting team.
They ranked 14th in 3-point field-goal percentage — shooting 32.5 percent —in the MAC heading into the matchup against King’s. But that wasn’t the case Tuesday.
Wilkes shot 41.7 percent from behind the arc, including a game-high four triples from Robinson, who finished with a double-double (14 points and 11 rebounds).
In fact, it was the difference, with 30 points coming from behind the arc in a 29-point win.
“You had to make threes in this game because King’s really helps in the post and they front the post and really come to the strong side of the ball in dribble-penetration,” Metz said. “You have to skip it and you have to shoot the threes when they’re open and you have to shoot them with confidence. We had a little bit of a height advantage, so we could get a little clear look at the basket than some other games.”
The game was close through the first three and a half minutes of the contest, but when King’s pulled within 9-7, the Colonels flexed their muscles.
Wilkes would go on a 40-20 run to close out the half, with Robinson scoring nine points and Landon Henry notching six over that stretch. All three of Robinson’s buckets came from behind the 3-point line in the first half.
King’s would never get any closer than within 16 points during the second half.
“Tonight, they were making a lot of shots and when teams are doing that it’s tough,” King’s head coach J.P. Andrejko said. “Of the teams that we’re playing right now, I just like the way that they’re playing. They’re very balanced, they have a lot of guys that can score. We come out and we knew we had to score because of it. We just missed some easy shots and you just see, it wasn’t the run and energy we’re used to.”
King’s was paced by Chris Fazzini, who scored a team-high 17 points to pair with four rebounds and four assists.
King’s 82, Wilkes 49
The Monarchs used a devastating second-quarter performance, outscoring Wilkes 22-12, to clinch its first MAC Freedom tournament berth since the 2012-13 season.
“It is so exciting. I’m just so happy because I knew from the beginning that we were going to do something great.,” King’s forward Olivia Hoffman said. “I’m so proud of my team and it’s because we’ve played as a team and played together and if we keep doing that here on out I know success will come our way.”
King’s got off to a slow start, facing a 7-4 deficit with 6:30 remaining in the first quarter after a Nicole Farrell jumper. But the Monarchs quickly gained momentum as Rebecca Prociak scored four of King’s next five points to take their first lead of the game, 9-7, with 4:47 remaining in the stanza.
The Monarchs had built a 38-23 advantage by halftime and continued their blazing run in the third frame, outscoring the Colonels 16-14.
Wilkes, trailing 54-25 with 3:24 remaining in the quarter, stormed back to cut the deficit to 17 points at the break. But Hazleton Area grad Mackenzie Yori quickly put a stop to the Colonels‘ run with a layup and pair of triples to provide 62-39 lead, one Wilkes couldn’t come back from.
“We just just needed that momentum and get into doing what we do well because we came out, we were a little bit lackadaisical and we weren’t ourselves,” Yori said. “Just picking it up and getting that energy back — it was huge. Once we got it, we just kept rolling and rolling and rolling, and no matter who came off the bench, they did a great job.”
Yori led the way with a game-high 25 points, including six 3-pointers, while Holy Redeemer alum Rebecca Prociak was close behind with 18 points and nine rebounds. Hoffman, a Wyoming Valley West grad, was a difference-maker on both ends for the Monarchs, finishing with nine points, six rebounds, five blocks and four assists. Berwick alum Alexis Steeber also finished in double figures, scoring 10 points and registering 10 boards.
Wilkes was paced by an 11-point effort from sophomore Sierra Smith. Senior forward Catey McFadden finished with nine points and six rebounds.