Friday, February 27, 2009

The Final Four

The "Final Four." Just four teams remain on both the men's and women's side of the Centennial Conference basketball tournament. The men convene in the heart of Amish Country - Lancaster - for the weekend, while the women gather in Allentown. A Saturday victory puts you in the final with the opportunity to not only win the championship, but also qualify for the NCAA Division III tournament. It's a chance to make history for the McDaniel men and Franklin & Marshall women, who have never won a Centennial tourney game. It's a chance to make history for the Diplomat men, and the women from Hopkins and Muhlenberg. Each program has won a Conference-record four titles. A fifth puts one in rarefied air, as no Centennial team has "one (ring) for the thumb."

We hope you'll join us this weekend at Mayser Center or Memorial Hall. Tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for student (13-18) and free admission for students from participating teams (upon presentation of ID) and youth 12 and under. If you cannot make the trip, you can watch the game(s) for free on your computer. Sign up for "Twitter" and receive updates at the half and when the game goes final. It should be a great weekend!

Women's Basketball
Three of the finalists have combined for 11 of the Conference's 15 championships - Johns Hopkins (4), Muhlenberg (4) and McDaniel (3). The other finalist - Franklin & Marshall - is 0-6 in tournament play. The Mules (18-0 CC, 22-3) became the first Centennial team to go 18-0 in Conference play and meets the Green Terror (11-7, 15-11) in the day's first semifinal. 'Berg pulled out a 77-76 overtime decision in Westminster and won by 22 (77-55) back on Jan. 31 at home. This is the seventh time that the two teams have met in the CC semifinals with each team winning three games. Muhlenberg leads the all-time series, 15-14. The matchup to watch takes place at guard between the Mules' Kelly McKeon, a first-team All-CC selection, and McDaniel's Ali Moreland, a second-team choice.

The nightcap pits the Diplomats (11-7, 14-11) and the Blue Jays (11-7, 13-12) in the rubber game of a thrilling regular-season set. F&M defeated Hopkins, 54-52, in Baltimore in December, only to see the Jays return the favor, 66-64, on Feb. 5 in Lancaster. The teams have met 58 times, including once in the CC postseason (2002) with the Dips holding a slender 30-28 lead. Can F&M contain Hopkins' potent inside game of Lyndsay Burton and Kristin Phillips? Can the Blue Jays slow down Diplomat guards Sarah Meisenberg and Beth Holt?

Women's Basketball championship website

Men's Basketball
As with the women, eight championships belong to three of the members of the final four - Franklin & Marshall (4), Gettysburg (2) and Muhlenberg (2) - while the other, McDaniel, searches for tournament win #1. The opening semifinal is a neutral court showdown between two long-time rivals as the Bullets (11-7, 16-8) and Green Terror (13-5, 18-7) meet for the right to go to the final. Both regular-season games were decided by five points or less, as McDaniel won 56-53 in Westminster and Gettysburg won 53-48 at home. This is the 99th time that the two schools have met on the hardwood with the Bullets holding a 70-28 lead. The premier matchups are the backcourt battle between the Terror's Miguel Jones and the Bullets' Dan Capkin, as well as the frontcourt between McDaniel's Josh McKay and Gettysburg's Andrew Powers.

In the Conference's first eight seasons, Franklin & Marshall (14-4, 21-4) and Muhlenberg (11-7, 16-10) met five times in postseason play, including the memorable 1995 final as the Mules shot 62.7 percent from the field to knock off the undefeated and #1 ranked Diplomats, 88-86 (F&M shot 56.4 percent from the floor that night). The teams have not squared off in the postseason since 2001, but their rivalry runs deep with Franklin & Marshall holding a 66-59 series advantage. The Diplomats swept the season series with an 84-76 win in Lancaster in December and a 60-59 win on Jan. 17 in Allentown. Although the frontcourt matchup between F&M's James McNally and Muhlenberg's Peter Barnes will be important, the big question could be if the Mules can slow down talented Diplomat guard Georgio Milligan - the first freshman in CC history to earn first-team All-Centennial honors.

Men's Basketball championship website

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