WESTMINSTER, Md. – It had been 53 years since a night like Wednesday night. On Feb. 25, 1961, then-Western Maryland defeated Johns Hopkins 86-65 in the Mason-Dixon first round game. For much of the first half on Feb. 26, 2014, McDaniel looked like it was going to cruise to ending a 12-game postseason losing streak. In the end, the home team held on for a 57-52 victory over Muhlenberg in the first round of the Centennial Conference men's basketball tournament.
With the win, the Green Terror (18-8) matches the program record for wins in a season with 18 and advances to Friday's semifinals at top-seeded Dickinson. Game time is 8 p.m.
Evan Pupelis (Manhasset, N.Y./Manhasset) led McDaniel with 12 points, nine rebounds and four assists while Nick Pergugino (Lewes, Del./Salesianum) added 12 points, canning four 3-pointers.
Malique Killing paced the Mules (16-10) with 23 points.
After a scoreless first 1:58, Duane Echols (Jessup, Md./Hammond) drained a 3-pointer in the corner for the first points of the game and the Green Terror never trailed.
Killing hit two free throws with 17:15 showing to get Muhlenberg on the board before Pupelis responded with a layup at the other end and Echols added a free throw with 16:01 showing for a 6-2 lead.
After Killing sliced the lead to two, Phillip Perry (Crownsville, Md./Annapolis Area Christian) hit a layup to spark a 20-2 run that stretched the advantage to 20 with 7:57 on the clock.
Perugino hit back-to-back 3-pointer during the run to lead a stretch in which seven different Green Terror players contributed baskets.
Trailing 28-8, Kevin Hargrove tallied his only points of the half with 6:53 to play, sparking a 15-6 rally that closed the deficit to 34-23 at the break.
Killing hit a layup 37 seconds into the second half to trim the margin to single digits for the first time since 14-6.
McDaniel pushed the lead back to as many as 15 on an Andrew Merlo (Rehoboth, Del./Cape Henlopen) jumper that made it 42-27 with 12:55 remaining.
Clinging to a 48-39 lead, Perry hit a jumper late in the shot clock with 7:05 to play to push the lead back to 11.
Five straight points from Stavtski and four in a row from Killing closed the deficit to 50-48 with 2:07 to play.
Jimmy Cranwell (Brick, N.J./Rumson-Fair Haven) hit the first free throw in a 1-and-1 situation 11 seconds later before Killing drove to the basket on the other end to make it a one-point game.
Pupelis and Killing traded layups to keep it a one-point game before Pupelis converted a layup with 36.4 seconds left to push the lead to 55-52.
The Mules had a pair of game-tying 3-point attempt at the other end, including a Killing attempt that was more than halfway down before popping back out before Cranwell corralled the rebound.
The senior missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 14.0 seconds left but gathered his own rebound.
After another missed front end, Pupelis hauled in the rebound and Wesley Brooks (North Wales, Pa./North Penn) hit both free throws with 4.5 seconds remaining to seal the victory.
Tim Stewart (Smyrna, Del./Smyrna) added seven rebounds while Perry and Merlo had seven points each. Merlo also dished out four assists while Perry had three.