Ashworth's Big Night Helps Scranton To Another Title
SCRANTON, Pa. — On Thursday afternoon, University of Scranton senior guard Zach Ashworth (Doylestown, Pa./Central Bucks West) was named the Landmark Conference Player of the Year for the second straight season.
He justified his selection by leading the Royals to an 82-71 victory over Catholic University in the championship game of the Landmark Conference tournament before 2000 fans Saturday evening at the Long Center.
Ashworth scored 24 of his career-high tying 31 points in the second half as the Royals broke away from a one-point halftime lead to win their third conference championship in four years. Senior guard Luke Hawk (Audubon, Pa./Methacton) finished with 18 points and steadily-improving sophomore guard Tim Lavelle (Clarks Green, Pa./Scranton Preparatory) contributed 12 as Scranton won its third straight game to improve to 20-5.
Catholic, which in all likelihood put the wraps on a 19-8 season, was led by senior guard R.J. Dixon (Charlotte, N.C./Cannon School) with 24 points, eight rebounds and six assists and senior forward Jason Banzhaf (Livingston, N.J./Seton Hall Preparatory) finished with 17 points and six rebounds.
The Royals overcame a shaky start to squeeze out a 32-31 lead by intermission. They missed 16 of their first 19 shots, yet remarkably trailed by only eight, 18-10, after the opening 12 minutes of play. Lavelle then jump-started a 22-13 run with a pair of 3-pointers and Ashworth followed with seven points as the Royals regained the upper hand heading into the break.
As he has all season long, Ashworth took over in the second half, scoring five of the Royals' first seven points as Scranton extended its lead to eight, 39-31, with 17:58 left. He followed that up with six points during an 11-1 spurt that extended a 42-39 lead to 13, 53-40.
He wasn't done.
After the Cardinals scored eight straight points—four each by Dixon and four each by Banzhaf—Ashworth buried a 3-pointer and Hawk followed with a lay-up following a Cardinal miss to keep the lead at 10, 58-48. Catholic closed the gap to five once again with 6:27 remaining before Ashworth hit two free throws and junior forward Matt Swaback (Kingston, Pa./Wyoming Seminary) followed with a 3-pointer to make it a 10-point lead once again. Ashworth then put it away by scoring eight points—six from the free throw line—in the 4:32 of play.
The Royals had plenty of other heroes.
Swaback finished with nine points, seven rebounds and four assists and sophomore point-guard Travis Farrell (Middletown, N.J./Christian Brothers Academy) had eight points—including a 3-pointer with three seconds left in the first half to give Scranton the lead at intermission—four rebounds and four assists.
But the unlikeliest turned out to be Lavelle, who followed up an 11-point effort in last Wednesday's nail-biting 74-71 victory in overtime against the Merchant Marine Academy with another solid effort off the bench tonight. He connected on 4 of 6 shots from the field and finished with five rebounds, two assists and two steals in 22 minutes of action. He also hit a driving lay-up on the baseline with 3:34 remaining to keep Scranton's lead at 10 moments after Catholic freshman center Chris Kearney (Centreville, Va./Westfield) scored down low to make it an 8-point game.
Scranton shot over 53 percent from the field in the second half, including 5 of 10 from the 3-point arc, and connected on 22 of 27 free throws (81.5 percent) for the game, including 17 of 19 (89.5 percent) in the second half.
Story provided by Scranton Sports Information