BROCKPORT — It was gut-check time for the short-handed Plattsburgh State men’s basketball team Friday night.
And, in the end, the determined Cardinals made their coach proud.
John Perez hit three free throws in the final seconds and the second-seeded Cardinals (22-4) edged third-seeded Geneseo (21-6), 73-69, in the SUNY Athletic Conference Tournament semifinals.
Plattsburgh will play the winner of the Oswego/The College at Brockport game in the title contest at 4 p.m. today.
“We had some impressive stats, but that didn’t tell the story of the game,” Plattsburgh coach Tom Curle said. “It was about heart and soul. It was about toughness and determination. Our guys gutted it out.
“What we did in the final two minutes of the game was impressive. Our players weren’t going to be denied the win. As a coach, I’m really proud of what they were able to accomplish.”
The Knights held a 32-31 halftime lead and went up by as many as six points in the second half.
“They went to a 1-3-1 zone in the middle of the second half and that gave us some problems,” Curle said. “Then we put Chris Manning in the high post and we were able to come back.
“Edward Correa had two huge blocks for us. It looked like he was beat on both plays, but came out of nowhere and blocked the shots, which led to points on the other end for us.”
Geneseo still held a 69-68 lead when Ezra Hodgson’s jumper put the Cardinals ahead to stay, at 70-69, in the final minute.
The Knights then missed a 3-pointer, got the rebound and then turned it over when Perez made the steal.
Perez was fouled with nine seconds remaining, made the first free throw and missed the second. The ball, however, went out of bounds off Geneseo and Perez was fouled again with 4.8 ticks left. This time, he hit both to make it, 73-69.