Men’s basketball concludes the season with comeback

Senior forward Joe Kromka put together a career game with 22 points. (credit: Jonathan Carreon/Photo Editor) Senior forward Joe Kromka put together a career game with 22 points. (credit: Jonathan Carreon/Photo Editor)

Senior day for the men’s basketball team signaled the end of three Tartan basketball careers. Guard John Duhring, guard Max Gordon, and forward Joe Kromka all laced up for their last college game against Case Western Reserve University on Saturday. In grand fashion, the Tartans sent their three seniors out on a high note, closing their 2011–12 season with a come-from-behind 72–69 victory over the Spartans.

The Tartans started out with a quick 8–1 start, featuring a one-handed slam by Kromka and threes from sophomore forwards Christian Manoli and Sean Brophy. But any momentum they had early in the game seemed to dissipate as the Spartans unleashed a 21–7 run. The Tartans had trouble finding easy baskets as their offense became stagnant.
“The intensity was missing; we were settling for jump shots on offense, not reversing the ball and not attacking the hoop,” Kromka said.

The Spartans buried the Tartans in a 13-point hole with 3:32 left in the first half, and at the end of the half, Carnegie Mellon trailed 41–31.

The two teams traded baskets for the first 10 minutes of the second half. At the 8:13 mark, the Tartans still looked up at a 12-point gap, trailing 61–49.
Then Kromka got hot.

A two-handed throw-down, two blocks, a three-pointer, two free throws, and a three all by Kromka brought the Tartans back into the game. With 49 seconds left, a post-up by Duhring — who converted and drew the foul — gave them their first lead of 68–67 since the 11:22 mark in the first half.

“We hit a couple big shots, but it was really just going to the line and getting them fouls,” Duhring said. “Once we got their big guys out of there, there is nobody who can guard [Kromka] in the post, and he stepped up.”

After two free throws by the Spartans, sophomore guard Rashaun Riley drove strong side to weak side, hitting a floater off the backboard with 21 seconds left to give the Tartans a 70–69 lead. Case Western missed three potential game-winning shots before the ball went out of bounds and was awarded to the Tartans with 0.8 seconds left. Kromka was fouled before the ball was inbounded, and he hit the two free throws to seal the Tartans’ victory.

Kromka scored a career-high 22 points and pulled down eight rebounds in his last game. Manoli and Riley each added 13 points.

“It was awesome,” Brophy said of Kromka’s closing performance. “He has a talent, and he has put it on display a lot this year and he really showed what he can do in this game.”
At the end of the 2011–12 season, the books close on Duhring, Kromka, and Gordon’s careers.

“John and Joe will be two of my best friends for life, there’s no doubt about that,” Gordon said. “Other guys that have come in the past and guys that are currently on the team I will always be close with.”

Regarding Duhring and Gordon, Brophy said, “A great leader, [Duhring] taught me a lot. Hopefully I can take some of the things he taught me as a leader going into the next two years. Max [Gordon] is one of the hardest workers — when you think nobody is in the gym, he is in here working.”

The Tartans’ season concludes with a record of 9–16, and 4–10 in UAA play. But this last game will be remembered for Kromka’s dominant play and how the Tartans sent their three seniors out with a great win.

“We wanted to send our seniors out on a good note,” Brophy said. “We needed to bring the same energy we always bring.”