GROVE CITY, Pennsylvania (WKBN) – The Grove City College men’s basketball team earned its first trip to the Presidents’ Athletic Conference Championship Tournament title game in 10 seasons Thursday night by holding off visiting Saint Vincent (13-14), 70-69, in the tournament semifinals at the Grove City College Arena.
Top-seeded Grove City (19-8) will now play No. 5 Geneva (14-13) in Saturday night’s title game at 7:30 in the Grove City College Arena. Geneva humbled No. 2 Chatham in Thursday’s other semifinal, 91-68.
Senior guard Nate Peters (Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio/Cuyahoga Valley) paced Grove City with 15 points while junior guard Justice Rice (Monessen, Pa./Monessen) tossed in 13 points. Junior forward Joe Meola (Painesville, Ohio/Lake Catholic) added a dozen points for the Wolverines.
Sophomore guard Ben Rose (Helena, Ala./Helena) gave Grove City its largest lead, 57-40, by hitting a layup with eight minutes left. Saint Vincent battled back to within 65-60 when Cletus Helton hit two free throws with 28 seconds left.
Grove City junior guard Erik Meiners (Centerville, Ohio/Centerville) hit two free throws but Helton countered with a three-pointer, cutting the lead to 67-63. Meiners and Rice each split a pair of free throws, pushing the lead back to 69-63. Saint Vincent’s David Stephen halved the lead with a three-pointer with four seconds left.
But Peters sank the front end of a two-shot free throw opportunity to seal the win. Helton hit another three as time expired.
Meola’s three-point play with 41 seconds left in the first half gave Grove City a 34-27 halftime lead. His first three-point play of the night gave Grove City its largest lead of the first half, 17-8, with 12:54 remaining.
Rice collected seven rebounds for Grove City while Meola snared six boards. Peters added five rebounds. Saint Vincent out-rebounded Grove City, 46-44.
Grove City shot 25 of 66 (38 percent) from the field while Saint Vincent finished 24 of 62 (39 percent). Both teams had 10 turnovers.
Senior forward James Wells (Waterville, Vt./Worcester Academy) distributed a team-high five assists for Grove City and Peters recorded four assists. Wells also blocked three shots. Twelve men played for the Wolverines and 10 scored. All 12 players played at least six minutes.
Helton led Saint Vincent with 20 points and Stephen finished with 18.
The teams split the regular season series as the home team won each game. Saint Vincent won in Latrobe, 71-66, December 7. Grove City pulled out a 68-64 home win January 29 over the Bearcats.
Saturday night’s game with Geneva will be the 177th all-time meeting in a series that dates back to 1899. Grove City leads the series, 100-76. Grove City has played no team more often than it has played Geneva. Grove City swept this year’s meetings. The Wolverines earned a 76-67 home win January 8, then rallied for a 76-71 win February 8 in Beaver Falls, Pa. The first win sparked the Wolverines’ current run of 15 wins in 16 games.
Geneva will be making its first appearance in the title game. Grove City defeated now-NAIA member Thomas More for the 2010 title at the Grove City College Arena, 78-61. The Wolverines also won conference titles in 1989, 1990, 1991, 1999, 2003 and 2007.
COURTESY: GROVE CITY COLLEGE ATHLETICS