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Hilbert loses in Div. III basketball tournament championship

Hilbert lost an uphill battle in a painfail way Sunday afternoon in the championship game of the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference men’s basketball tournament at Hafner Recreation Center in Hamburg.

After taking only their second lead of the game, 73-72 with 24 seconds to play, Mike Connelly of Pitt-Greensburg hit a three-point shot from the right corner giving the Panthers a 75-73 upset victory over the No. 1 seeded Hawks, the AMCC regular season champions.

Pitt-Greensburg (19-9), the No. 3 seed for the playoffs, gained the AMCC’s automatic berth in the NCAA Division III Tournament.

Confounded by the Panthers’ zone defense, the Hawks never seemed to get in rhythm in the championship game. Hilbert led only twice in the game, each time by one point, and for only a few seconds. The first time was at 40-39 early in the second half on a layup by Jerame Owens. The second time, 73-72, after Kirkland Ottey stole the ball, was fouled and made two free throws with 24 seconds to play.

After Connelly’s basket with 19 seconds left, the Hawks had a chance to tie or win, but Owens missed from the paint and Pitt-Greensburg rebounded.

Jalen Smith led Hilbert (22-5) with 26 points. Owens had a huge game with 16 points and 20 rebounds and Ottey had 14 points. Connelly had 15 for Pitt-Greensburg, all on three-pointers. Rocco Contristano had 19 points and eight rebounds and Jerrell Figueroa 18 for the Panthers. Marcus Thomas had 10 rebounds for the winners.

It was the final game at Hilbert for Owens and four other seniors, four of whom have been with teams that achieved an 84-25 overall record and a 55-17 AMCC record and won two conference regular season titles.

Pitt-Greensburg will learn its first-round NCAA opponent when the NCAA Division III selection meeting is held on Monday.