Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Lewis' late three wins MAAC opener for Canisius

Zach Lewis made only one three-pointer against Saint Peter's, but it was game-winner as Golden Griffins took their MAAC opener over Saint Peter's in 60-57 thriller. (Photo courtesy of Canisius College)

For most of the night, Zach Lewis was an afterthought as Canisius struggled to put Saint Peter's away in the Golden Griffins' first conference game of the season.

Rendered ineffective through the first 37 minutes in a 2-for-11 showing, the sophomore was shaken up with 2:34 remaining in regulation, and looked as if he would not return to a game that was tied at 54.

But as they say, nothing is over until the final buzzer.

Not only did Lewis return, but he provided the final salvo for the Griffs, knocking down a three-pointer from the left wing with 4.8 seconds remaining as Canisius (3-3, 1-0 MAAC) held off a valiant Saint Peter's (2-6, 0-2) squad by the final of 60-57 at the Yanitelli Center.

"It was a fight to the finish," Griffs head coach Jim Baron remarked. "We knew it was going to be a battle. These guys are tough, and we came out, we defended, we rebounded much better (in) the second half, and we executed on offense. That's what we've got to keep doing."

Lewis' inefficient night was salvaged by the accuracy of Phil Valenti, whose 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting led all scorers. Josiah Heath also added 10 points on a night where Canisius trailed by as many as 10 points, yet gradually chipped away as the game wore on.

"He's a tough kid," Baron said of Lewis, "and we needed that. We needed everybody. We've got so many young kids, and that situation is very, very challenging, but I give our kids a lot of credit."

Saint Peter's took a 28-24 lead into the locker room at halftime, and their tendency to answer every Canisius rally through the opening minutes of the final stanza suggested the Peacocks would be able to gut out a victory despite only 10 points from Marvin Dominique. After a Kevin Bleeker three gave the Griffs a 57-54 lead, Travis Hester; who made his first career start for the Peacocks tonight, responded with a triple from the left corner to even the score at 57, prompting Baron to call a timeout, setting the stage for Lewis' heroics.

"I think we're still learning and growing as a team," Saint Peter's coach John Dunne admitted after his third home loss, each by three points or less. "I know you win or you lose, so you understand that. A lot of the new guys are going to continue to get experience, and eventually, we'll be healthy as well."

Playing once again without shooting guard Desi Washington, the Peacocks shot 55 percent from the field in the second half, but a 6-for-15 effort at the free throw line ultimately doomed their chances.

"It's a killer," Dunne lamented, "and a missed front end was one of those. That's a tough one right there."

Saint Peter's attempts to regroup Saturday afternoon at Boston University, while Canisius seeks a 2-0 start to MAAC play against local rival Niagara.

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