#9 seed Penn State York Men's Basketball opened the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) National Championship Tournament with a 58–57 victory over #9 seed Central Penn College. Senior Anthony Bennett, Jr. (Aberdeen, Md. / Aberdeen) made a layup and got fouled in the act of shooting with 12 seconds to play, giving York the one-point lead. Although Bennett, Jr. missed the free throw, York got a stop at the other end as an off-balance three-point attempt from Central Penn missed the mark just before the buzzer sounded.
With the win, Penn State York (21–8) moves on to the quarterfinals and faces #1 seed Berkeley College of New York (21–4) in a rematch of the 2017 championship game, two years to the day from that thriller. In that game, Berkeley escaped with an 80–76 overtime win to complete a perfect 29–0 season and take its third straight national championship. After winning the tournament again last year, Berkeley has to be considered the odds-on favorite coming into this year, yet York can confidently say they belong in any game during the postseason.
In the opener, freshman John Gillespie (Lancaster, Pa. / Lancaster Mennonite) led Penn State York with 14 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals. Gillespie was 2–2 from 3-point range in the first half, as York led for much of the opening stanza and carried a 34–27 lead into halftime.
York continued clinging to a small lead, but Central Penn got hot from beyond the arc with a few minutes to play, retaking the lead with 2:34 left in the game. A rare Justin Luton (Baltimore, Md. / Newtown) 3-pointer with 1:38 to play tied the game at 54. The big man scored 11 in the game, but this time Central Penn immediately answered with a three of their own, to go up 57–54.
After Derrick Hoffman (Manchester, Pa. / Northeastern) missed a tough layup, the senior managed to grab the rebound off a subsequent Central Penn miss. Bennett, Jr. drove inside and was fouled with 21 seconds to go, converting both free throws to pull Penn State York within 1. York fouled immediately as Central Penn inbounded the ball, sending them to the line for a one-and-one. When the first try clanked off the rim, Hoffman again corralled the rebound and got it to Bennett, Jr., who took the ball all the way down the court for what turned out to be the winning basket.
Bennett, Jr. finished the day with 9 points and 6 rebounds in 21 minutes off the bench, while freshman Saion Blaney (Westminster, Md. Westminster) again saw significant time and scored 8. Hoffman scored 7 points and pulled down 4 rebounds, while Sahnei Day (Philadelphia, Pa. / Abraham Lincoln) saw most of the time at the point, scoring 6 and dishing out 5 assists.
As a team, Penn State York held Central Penn to 34.5% shooting from the field. In their past four games from the Pennsylvania State University Athletic Association (PSUAC) conference tournament into the USCAA national tournament, York's kept its opponents to an average of 32.5% from the field.
The quarterfinal game against Berkeley College is set to tip-off at 8 p.m. on Monday, March 4. A livestream of the game will be available through the USCAA.