Banzhaf's MVP performance lifts CUA to thrilling win in title game

Banzhaf's MVP performance lifts CUA to thrilling win in title game

WASHINGTON – CUA saw its 17-point lead vs. Southern Maine evaporate in the championship game of the Residence Inn Greenbelt championship on Sunday, but the Cardinals battled back and came out on top 79-77 to claim the crown.  Senior Jason Banzhaf garnered MVP honors with a terrific performance, as he scored 31 points and pulled down 8 boards for the Cardinals (10-2).

The home team's lead remained at 13 or better for the opening five minutes of the second half, but then Southern Maine began to find its offensive rhythm as the Huskies ripped off a 15-2 run to tie things at 52 with under 12 remaining.

CUA then scored the next seven points to go in front 59-52, and following Shawn Holmes' trifecta with 5:10 to play, the Cardinals found themselves ahead by 10, 71-61.

Southern Maine refused to go away though, as the Huskies scored 13 of the next 17 points to get to within a single point with only 34 seconds remaining.  CUA's R.J. Dixon was then fouled and hit a pair at the line to stretch the lead to three, but Corteze Isaac came down the other end and scored to again make it a one-point affair.

Dixon was once again fouled and sank both attempts yet again, this time with 9 seconds to play, giving the Cardinals a 79-76 lead. 

CUA Head Coach Steve Howes then called a timeout to set up his last-second strategy, and following the stoppage, Isaac got the ball and headed down court. 

With time winding down, Holmes fouled Isaac to prevent him from unleashing a potential game-tying three-pointer.  The tactic worked to perfection for CUA after Isaac made his first free throw and purposely missed the second, as freshman Pete Schramm soared in for the rebound as time expired lifting the Cardinals to a thrilling victory and their third straight championship in this holiday tournament.     

CUA led by double figures for the final 5:11 of the first half, topping out with a 17-point advantage when Schramm sank a pair at the free throw line with 2:56 to play. 

The Cardinals eventually took a 44-29 lead into the locker room following a late three-pointer by sophomore Nate Koenig that brought the CUA bench to its feet in approval.

Banzhaf's 31 points were one off his career-high, which came in 2008.  He hit 11 of 15 shots on the night and 9 of 11 free throws and was joined in double digits by Dixon with 20 and Schramm with 10.  CUA shot an even 50 percent from the floor and held a decided advantage on the glass, with a 39-24 advantage.  The Cardinals also made a living in the paint, outscoring the Huskies 46-26.

Isaac did Banzhaf one better in the scoring column with 32 points on 12 of 20 shooting, including a trio of triples, while Chris Pagentine scored 14 and Sean Bergeron added 11 for the visitors.

In addition to Banzhaf, Dixon was also named to the All-Tournament Team.  Isaac was Southern Maine's representative, while Matas Rascius of CCNY and Don Poitras of Rivier also received the honor. 

In Sunday's consolation game, Rivier raced past CCNY by a score of 87-59.

The next time CUA hits the floor it will be in a Landmark Conference game as the Cardinals travel to Juniata on Friday, January 7 to take on the Eagles.  Game time is slated for 5:30 p.m.