Chris Manhertz's double-double helped Canisius to 71-65 win over Siena, moving Griffs into MAAC Tournament semifinals. (Photo courtesy of Canisius College)
It was a high-stakes matchup, much like every other game this weekend. In one corner, the conference's Player of the Year, taking the court in an attempt to see one more day in a season that will go down in the annals as one of the best in MAAC history. In the other, the school with the largest fan base in the league, led by one of the more entertaining coaches in the league.
In the end, there could only be one winner, and the aforementioned Player of the Year got by, albeit with a little help from his friends, namely a burgeoning power forward.
With 10 points and 11 rebounds, Chris Manhertz was one of five players in double figures as Canisius (21-11) shook off a valiant challenge from Siena, (15-17) defeating the Saints by the final of 71-65 to set up a semifinal date with reigning MAAC champion Iona, who eliminated the Golden Griffins in the quarterfinals last year on the road to a league title. In fact, that game was a year ago tomorrow.
"You've got to man up, step up, and find a way to win," said Manhertz, whose three consecutive offensive rebounds paved the way for Canisius to close the game on an 11-4 run. "We did a good job of that."
Trailing 61-60 after a Rob Poole three-pointer put the Saints ahead with 4:02 to go, Manhertz grabbed an offensive board off a missed three by Zach Lewis, then drew a foul and converted both opportunities at the line. Poole was subsequently stripped by Billy Baron, who immediately swished a three through the MassMutual Center net to put the Griffs up four, and then added a layup in the final minute after Siena elected not to foul while trailing 68-65.
"You can't foul Baron," Saints head coach Jimmy Patsos intimated. "When Manhertz made his four in a row, I said 'who are we going to foul?'"
Brett Bisping led the Saints with a career-high 22 points, while Poole added 14 in the losing effort. However, Canisius earned a hard-fought victory, playing with heavy hearts in the process.
"We dedicated this game to Brian Moretti," head coach Jim Baron said, recalling the St. Bonaventure sports information director who passed away this past Thursday, and had worked at Canisius in the past. "It was a very emotional game. These guys have been through a lot this year. They understand this is a marathon, not a sprint."