PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia University men's basketball team claimed its first Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) championship since 2009 with a 42-41 victory over cross-town rival Holy Family Saturday afternoon at Caldwell College. The Rams also earned the conference's automatic bid into the NCAA Division II Tournament.
Philadelphia improves to 25-6 overall, the 11th time that team has reached 25 wins under Hall of Fame head coach Herb Magee and the first since the 2009-10 campaign. The Rams will make their 33rd appearance in the NCAA Division II Tournament, trailing only Kentucky Wesleyan's 37 appearances for the most trips to the tournament.
Magee is now at 985 career victories and has led the Rams to the NCAA Tournament for the 27th time.
The complete NCAA Division II Tournament field will be announced on Sunday, March 9 at 10:30 p.m. on www.ncaa.com.
Sophomore forward Derek Johnson (Conshohocken, Pa./Atlantic Christian), the CACC Tournament MVP, scored 11 points and grabbed five rebounds in the victory. Johnson averaged 15.7 points and 6.3 rebounds in the tournament and hit the game-winning 3-pointer in the semifinal round to knock off USciences.
Sophomore forward Peter Alexis (Wilkes-Barre, Pa./Holy Redeemer) recorded 14 points and 11 rebounds for his 15th double-double of the season. Alexis—who had a double-double in all three tournament games—is just five points shy from becoming the 52nd Philadelphia University men's basketball player, and third this season, to score 1,000 career points.
Alexis and sophomore guard Andre Gibbs (Smyrna, Del./Smyrna) joined Johnson on the All-CACC Tournament Team.Both teams struggled mightily to find their offense in the first half. Philadelphia shot at a slightly better percentage than Holy Family, 29.6 percent (8-of-27) to 25.9 percent (7-of-27), to take an 18-17 lead at the half.
Things picked up in the second half as the team swapped the lead three times in the opening 6:21. Alexis easily put back a miss by Gibbs at the 10:26 mark to spark a 10-3 Philadelphia run, which included eight straight points from Johnson, to take a 35-29 lead with 8:03 left.
Holy Family (21-10) fought back with seven consecutive points over a 4:52 span to take a 38-37 advantage when Ervin Ezell made a lay-up along the baseline at 2:38.
On the Rams' next possession, Gibbs came up with the biggest shot of the game as he drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 1:40 on the clock to stop the Tigers' momentum and put the Rams back in the lead 40-38.
Johnson sealed the game by draining two free throws with four seconds to go to put Philadelphia in front 42-38.
Ezell led Holy Family with 17 points and seven rebounds. Derrick Stewart added 10 points and seven boards.