Cardinals fall to No. 24 Bengals in thrilling championship game

Cardinals fall to No. 24 Bengals in thrilling championship game

WASHINGTON – In a game that came down to the final shot, CUA (11-1) fell to No. 24 Buffalo State (10-1) 82-81 in an absolute thriller on Sunday in the championship of the CUA Residence Inn-Greenbelt Classic.  Roderick Epps hit the game-winning shot with only seven seconds to play before Steve Limberiou's 3-pointer was just off the mark at the buzzer.

Buffalo State had taken a five-point lead with 5:59 to play on a Justin Mitchell jumper, but CUA went on a 10-4 run over the next four minutes to take a 76-75 lead, capped by a pair of Darrell Carroll free throws with 1:48 on the clock.

Mitchell was fouled down the other end for the Bengals and his two free throws gave the visitors a one-point lead with 1:32 remaining.

The free throw parade continued with Shawn Holmes sinking a pair for CUA to give the lead back to the Cardinals before Epps drilled a 3-pointer to put Buffalo State in front 80-78 at the 1:18 mark.

As time ticked away, CUA put the ball in the hands of Holmes and he delivered, drilling a trifecta with only 31 ticks to go, which gave CUA an 81-80 lead and brought the DuFour Center crowd to its feet.

The Bengals called timeout and set up what would be their final play.  CUA's defense stood tall and made things difficult for Buffalo State, but with under ten seconds remaining, Mitchell found Epps for a layup and a one-point lead.

Holmes sprinted down the other end and found Limberiou, who took a dribble and launched a 3-pointer, but it hit off the rim and CUA suffered its first loss of the season.

Holmes finished with 21 points, including a 10 of 11 showing at the foul line, while Carroll tallied a career-high 18 points on 5 of 8 shooting, to go along with a career high tying seven boards.  Nate Koenig also hit for double figures, finishing with 14, while Limberiou and Chris Kearney added nine apiece.

Mitchell netted a game-high 27 points for the Bengals, while Jake Simmons added 18 and Epps finished with 13. 

CUA controlled the game in the first half, opening up a 14-7 lead on Koenig's jumper at the 13-minute mark. 

The lead reached nine on Limberiou's basket with 10:31 to play, and after Carroll sank two free throws CUA was in front by 11.

With 2:30 left to play before halftime, Holmes took the ball coast-to-coast, got fouled and scored the basket.  Following the ensuing free throw, the Cardinals were ahead by 11, 37-26, before eventually taking a 39-27 lead into the locker room.   

In Sunday's consolation game, Wesleyan outlasted MCLA by a score of 75-68.  Shasha Brown led the victors with 20 points, while Mike Callaghan added 17.  MCLA was led by Michael Young's 15 tallies.

The All-Tournament Team consisted of Chris Harris (MCLA), Mike Callaghan (Wesleyan), Shawn Holmes (CUA), Jake Simmons (Buffalo State) and Justin Mitchell (Buffalo State, MVP).

CUA will be back in action on Friday, January 6 when the Cardinals head to Pennsylvania to face Moravian in a Landmark Conference matchup.  Tip time from Bethlehem is set for 5:30 p.m.