American and Lafayette meet for Patriot League title

Mar 11, 2015 - 2:27 PM Easton, PA ( - An automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament is on the line Wednesday night, as the American Eagles battle the Leopards of Lafayette in the title game of the Patriot League Tournament at A.P. Kirby Field House.

The sixth-seeded Eagles are the defending tournament champs, after taking down Boston University a year ago in a lopsided 55-36 final. However, this season American was far from a favorite to repeat, finishing in a three-way tie for sixth place in the standings at 8-10, yet here it is on the cusp of going back to the Big Dance.

The Eagles arrived at this point by first taking out third-seeded Lehigh in the quarterfinals on Thursday night and then posting a 73-62 triumph versus No. 2 seed Colgate in the semifinals on Sunday. For the record, American has won this event a total of three times.

Meanwhile, the fourth-seeded Leopards broke even through 18 league outings, matching Boston University for fourth place in the standings. Lafayette blew the doors off the aforementioned Terriers in an 89-64 final last week and then turned the tables on top-seeded Bucknell, 80-74, on Sunday to arrive in the championship round.

Lafayette has won this title twice previously, the last time coming in 2000. However, the team did play in the finals just two years ago versus Bucknell, falling by a score of 64-56.

The first meeting of the 2014-15 campaign between the teams took place at Lafayette back in January, with the visitors slipping by in a 78-76 final. The same was true a month later when American secured an 88-77 victory at home to complete the sweep.

While the Eagles may lead the all-time series by a count of 34-19, the Leopards are a perfect 9-0 in Patriot League Tournament play in their own building over the years.

All 73 points scored by American on Sunday afternoon at Cottrell Court in New York were tallied by the starting five, each of them finishing in double figures as they dismissed Colgate. Shooting a stellar 61.9 percent from the field, which included 7-of-12 behind the 3-point line, the Eagles were led by John Schoof with 17 points as he converted all but one of his five shots beyond the arc.

Pee Wee Gardner tacked on 15 points in the victory over the Raiders, followed by Jesse Reed and Charlie Jones with 14 points apiece and Marko Vasic 13 points before he picked up his fifth personal foul.

American is a team based on defense these days, limiting opponents to just 58.4 ppg, but at the same time the offense has had trouble producing, coming up with a similar 58.6 ppg over the course of 32 games. Reed is good for 14.4 ppg and Schoof another 12.1 ppg, the latter hitting his 3-point tries at a 40.2 percent clip. Gardner (10.4 ppg) has been even better on the outside at 41.3 percent accuracy.

On Sunday, the Leopards shot 53.1 percent from the field and 21-of-24 at the free-throw line, all while turning the ball over just four times during the win against Bucknell. Nick Lindner tallied 23 points and seven assists, followed by Dan Trist with 21 points on 8-of-10 from the floor. Joey Ptasinski, who missed only one of his seven field goal tries, accounted for 18 points and Bryce Scott 11 as the starting five accounted for all 80 points on the afternoon.

Named to the All-Patriot League First Team, Trist is one of the top scorers in the conference with 17.6 ppg, making good on 58.0 percent from the field and also ripping down 6.6 rpg. Seth Hinrichs checks in with 13.0 ppg and Lindner another 12.4 ppg, to go along with his 157 assists, against just 51 turnovers for a program that is connecting on 41.0 percent beyond the arc en route to 74.5 ppg.

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