Rider was on another storm yesterday and, as a result, Delaware, the tallest and most talented basketball team in the league, bid farewell to the East Coast Conference in a state of shock.
The Blue Hens squandered an eight-point lead with less than two minutes to play in regulation and lost a 77-75 overtime decision to the Cinderella Broncs at the Towson Center.
Rider will face Towson State for the tournament title and an automatic NCAA bid tomorrow at 5 p.m. at the Towson Center. ESPN will carry the game.
It was a bitter swan song for Delaware, which is joining the North Atlantic Conference next season. The Blue Hens played in 15 ECC tournaments without reaching the final and were winless in three semifinal games, including yesterday's.
Sixth-seeded Rider, upset winner over Drexel in the opening round, out-hustled and outsmarted the Blue Hens to halt their eight-game winning streak -- particularly after Ricky Deadwyler hit a three-pointer to push Delaware ahead, 65-57.
"We did a real nice job of being scrappy without fouling," said Broncs coach Kevin Bannon. "We got after it. In the last 70 seconds, guys made a lot of nice hustle plays."
The turnaround in regulation came when Delaware's Alex Coles, an All-American high jumper, soared to block a shot attempt by Darrick Suber.
It was an obvious goaltending, and Suber said he "felt good about it because the ball might have ended up short."
Suber scored Rider's next six points to tie the game and force overtime, then finished with 28 points.
Delaware (16-13) dominated the early minutes of overtime, but Jay Bizyak hit a three-pointer for give Rider a 73-70 advantage, and the Blue Hens never got closer than two again.
A key rebound by Chris Carothers on a missed Rider shot and two free throws each by Mark Wilcox and Marcus Pryor sealed the Broncs' second title-game appearance. They beat Bucknell, 73-71, in overtime to win the 1984 ECC crown.
Delaware outshot Rider from the field, had a 49-40 edge in rebounds and blocked five shots, but couldn't overcome 28 turnovers caused by the feisty Broncs defense and its own carelessness.
Cries of "We Want Delaware" from the Towson State cheering section as Rider came to the court was a factor.
"That got a lot of people inspired," said Bannon. "Most teams worry about Darrick. But a lot of other people have stepped up in this tournament."
"Basically, we played well until the end stretch," said Delaware coach Steve Steinwedel. "But a lot of our turnovers late were self-inflicted. We just weren't playing good offense."
So, the team with the best talent went down. The team with the most inspiration stayed for its first appearance on national television.