Towson State held off a furious Loyola rally last night for a 62-60 win and its second straight Beltway Classic title.
The game was a thriller similar to last year's title meeting, when Towson needed two overtimes to defeat the University of Maryland Baltimore County. This time, the Tigers built a 16-point lead, only to be forced hold off the surging Greyhounds during a wild 10-minute finish.
Towson evened its record at 2-2, and the loss dropped the Greyhounds to 2-2.
Loyola entered the game winless against Towson in their last five meetings including last year's 87-79 loss at Reitz Arena. The last time the Greyhounds beat the Tigers was Dec. 21, 1985, when they won, 98-87, at the Towson Center.
But the Greyhounds, who won just four games last year, earned a little local respect as they rallied behind guards Kevin Green and Tracy Bergan.
Leading, 35-23, at the half, Towson pushed the lead to 14 on a jumper by Larry Brown in the opening minute of the second half. But Green hit two jumpers, and Bergan -- who had three fouls in the first half -- hit one of two free throws to pull the Greyhounds within 37-28.
With Towson leading 44-34, the Loyola inside men -- mainly center Mike Wagner, 6 feet 11 and backup center George Sereikas, 6-7 -- became aggressive in the middle and disrupted Towson drives.
And when Loyola forward Kevin Anderson (0-for-4 from the field in the first half) hit a three-pointer from the corner it started an 11-0 run that gave the Greyhounds their first lead, 45-44, with 9:26 left in the game.
The teams went back and forth, with three ties and six lead changes. But, after Bergan scored on a hook shot with 3:48 left to put Loyola up, 53-51, the Greyhounds turned the ball over on consecutive trips resulting in easy shots by Chuck Lightening and Griffin to give Towson a 55-53 lead with 1:57 left.
Green hit two free throws for Loyola, and Anderson added another to make it 57-56, but Griffin took a lob from Lightening for a two-hand dunk that made it 59-56 with 37 seconds left.
After Loyola's Derek Campbell hit a layup to make it 59-58, Griffin was fouled and made one of two free throws for a 60-58 Towson lead.
Loyola had a chance to tie, or take the lead, but Anderson's three-point attempt from the right corner hit the front of the rim. Towson's Larry Brown was fouled on the rebound and hit two free throws to make it 62-58.
Green hit two free throws to make it 62-60 and Towson turned over the inbounds pass giving Loyola the ball with two seconds left. But Bergan's running jumper was too long and the Tigers pulled out the win.