CHESTERTOWN D — CHESTERTOWN -- Leading scorer Jay Gangemi didn't have a point in the first 33 minutes and Johns Hopkins missed nine free throws in the last three, but the Blue Jays still managed to bang out a 73-59 victory over host Washington College last night.
Score one for the defense.
Hopkins, ranked No. 16 among the nation's Division III teams, has struggled offensively at times this month. The Blue Jays are always tenacious at the defensive end, however, and that has them atop the Middle Atlantic Conference Southeast Section and headed to their third straight NCAA tournament.
In beating its rival for the fourth consecutive time and denying coach Tom Finnegan his 277th win and a share of the Washington career record with the late J. Thomas Kibler, Hopkins limited the Shoremen to 33.0 percent shooting for the game, 24.2 percent (8-for-33) in the second half. Washington's second-half futility included an 0-for-9 showing from three-point range.
Coming in, Blue Jays foes were shooting 38.8 percent for the season.
"When our offense went south a couple of games ago, our defense started carrying us," Hopkins coach Bill Nelson said. "Coming into this year, [assistant coach] Bob McCone, who runs our defense, felt that we had more size and quickness than we've ever had, and we'd be able to do more things. When we handed [No. 14] NYU their only loss, they shot 14 percent in the second half."
Washington's offense revolves around senior guard Allen Lester and junior center Darren Vican. Hopkins' Mike Rotay and Danny Knee made Lester miss all eight of his second-half attempts, and Vican earned his game-high 18 against Lou Sabad and Mike Shatzel, going 6-for-6 at the line.
Offensively, Hopkins was led by yet two more sophomores, getting 17 points on 5-for-6 shooting and nine rebounds from Frank Grzywacz, and 14 points from Luke Busby. Gangemi drew much attention from the Shoremen, but didn't force anything in the second half, when he made all three of his shots.
Washington went on a 7-0 run at the start of the second half to go up 38-31, but the Blue Jays responded with a 13-0 run. Grzywacz and Busby did all of the scoring during the decisive burst. Mark West's free throws stretched the gap to 51-40 with 9:13 left, and the Shoremen, who had only a Vican turnaround jumper to show for nearly 10 minutes, never got closer than six.
Four points was the biggest spread in the first half, as the Blue Jays used consecutive baskets by Shatzel, Busby and Grzywacz to take a 25-21 lead with 4:46 left. Tim Liddy, who finished with 12, broke a four-minute scoreless drought for the Shoremen, and Lester and Geoff Rupert followed to put them ahead 27-25. Washington cashed in at the foul line, but Shatzel's follow at the buzzer cut the Shoremen lead to 32-31.
Gangemi was 0-for-4 in the half, but the Blue Jays bench was a combined 5-for-6 from the field. Hopkins committed 12 turnovers before intermission, and 22 for the game.
Nelson didn't go overboard when the Blue Jays won their first 11 games, as eight were at home and the other three were at Goucher, Western Maryland and Widener, which was without its top player at the time. The Blue Jays play only four more games at home, and they're at No. 1 Franklin & Marshall next Thursday.