Lions' Dream Season Concludes In USCAA Semifinals

Isaiah Lester
Isaiah Lester

UNIONTOWN, Pa. -- The Penn State Brandywine men's basketball team, seeded fifth in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament, produced one of the best seasons in team history; however, the Lions' 2017-18 campaign came to an end on Friday night following a semifinal loss by a score of 107-85 to three-time defending national champion and No. 1 seed Berkeley College (N.J.).

Brandywine, which became the school's first men's team to win a national tournament game and reach a semifinal round one day earlier, finished the season with a record of 21-8. First-year Head Coach Ben Kay's team produced the team's first 20-win season since 2005-06, while tying that same squad for the second-highest, single-season win total in program history just one year after the Lions posted a 6-19 record. Brandywine had won a combined 20 games during the four previous seasons prior to 2017-18.

The setback also signaled the end of the careers for four Brandywine seniors. Isaiah Lester (Morton, Pa./Ridley) topped Brandywine in scoring with 21 points, including a 14-point second half, in his final game in a Brandywine uniform. Terrence Brown (Philadelphia, Pa./Communications Tech) produced a 17-point, 10-rebound double-double, while Donte Winfield (Philadelphia, Pa./Simon Gratz) collected 10 points, five assists and four steals. James Fisher (Philadelphia, Pa./Upper Darby) added five points to his career total, finishing his 85-game career with 1,225 points, the third-highest mark in program history.

Brandywine trailed from the start, falling behind 8-0, before using a 7-1 spurt capped by three Lester free throws to climb within two.

The Knights jumped ahead 16-7, but a triple from Lester brought the deficit to six; however, Berkeley netted the next eight points and outscored Brandywine 32-9 during the final eight minutes of the half to run out to a 60-27 edge at the break.

Lester knocked down a trio of triples during a 1:47 span early in the second half to bring the score to 66-38 and later sliced the deficit to 23 points with a layup at the 13:48 mark. The Lions continued to chip away, getting within 75-53 when Ameer Staggs (Ridley, Pa./Ridley) converted a three-point play before Fisher's triple made the score 77-60, capping a 7-0 spurt two minutes later.

However, Berkeley countered as Ricardo Ayuso buried a three-pointer with 10:34 to go that sent the Knights' advantage back past 20 points, a margin that the Lions would not reduce lower the remainder of the way.

Staggs added 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting for Brandywine, which managed 34 percent shooting, but knocked down only 24-of-40 free throw attempts and 7-of-35 shots from beyond the arc. Dwayne Coleman (Philadelphia, Pa./Delaware Valley Charter) added seven points and seven rebounds.

Berkeley, which was paced by Ayuso's 32-point effort, will seek its fourth-straight national title on Saturday evening.

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