Michael Taylor's clutch three-point basket with five seconds remaining pushed Berkeley College to an 85-84 comeback victory over the Wildcats of Johnson & Wales (Charlotte) on Saturday afternoon. The game was played at the Wildcat Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. The triumph for the Knights was their 11th consecutive victory, improving Berkeley's mark to 14-1 on the 2017-2018 campaign. Johnson & Wales University (Charlotte) dipped to 4-12 with the loss. Following the win for Berkeley College, Head Coach Jonathan Pena praised his team.
"This was an incredible come-from-behind victory for our team, and it speaks volume about our diligence and determination," Pena said. "We fell behind by a big margin early in the second half, but we stuck together as a group and never stopped believing in one another. Our confidence is sky high at the moment, and we'll look to keep this positive momentum going into the game against Mercy College on Wednesday."
When mentioning the most clutch student-athletes in the program's history, the most notable name synonymous with timely-shooting and big-time baskets is Massiah Merritt. Merritt - a sensational scorer and versatile guard - always seemed to perform at the highest level when the moment was the grandest. He was a huge part of three Berkeley College Regional and National championships, apiece. Another name that comes to mind is Kenton Chan-Man, who spent just one season as a Knight (in 2014-2015) and had a knack for coming up big at the ends of games, whether it be draining a basket, picking up a key assist, or recording a crucial steal. He was one of the leaders of the Cinderella 2014-2015 team that won a HVIAC title - and the program's first National crown. Now – just maybe – Michael Taylor's name could be floating its way toward the category of some of the program's all-time clutch players.
After a modest first half in which he scored just eight points, Taylor netted 20 points in the second session – with the final three points he scored serving as the biggest. With 12 seconds remaining – and Berkeley trailing 84-82 – Taylor would misfire on his game-tying attempt, but Shamoree Strawn would grab the offensive rebound. He would then swing a pass back to Taylor, who would nail a triple to put the Knights up 85-84. Majerle Pool's three-point attempt at the buzzer was off, and Berkeley College held on for the one-point win.
The victory was even more impressive based on the fact that the Knights once trailed by 16 points – 60-44 – with 18:20 remaining in the game. Berkeley College would spend the next 15 minutes working on its comeback, eventually tying the score at 78 apiece just with 3:23 remaining thanks to a Ricardo Ayuso jumper. Later – with the game knotted at 80 apiece – the Wildcats' Malik Bullock would convert on a basket to put his team up by two. A Caleb Coleman free throw 22 seconds later made it 83-80 in favor of Johnson & Wales University (Charlotte). Berkeley stayed within striking distance, trailing just 84-82 before Taylor's heroics inside the final five seconds served as the difference.
Taylor finished with a game-high 28 points while snatching six rebounds, and Johnnie Green added 25 points, nine rebounds, and a block. Finally, it was Ayuso dropping-in 20 points, snatching four rebounds and adding four assists.
The Wildcats were led by Poole, as he scored a team-high 23 points, grabbed five rebounds, tallied two assists, and added two steals. Christian Creswell contributed 14 points, a team-high six rebounds, and a game-high three steals. Coleman connected on six of his eight attempts from the floor to finalize his afternoon with 14 points, and James Veal contributed 10 points.
Both teams shot the basketball very well. Johnson & Wales University (Charlotte) hit on 47.1 percent of its attempts from the floor (32-68), while Berkeley College hit on 34 of its 76 shots from the floor (44.7 percent). The Knights out-rebounded the Wildcats by a count of 38-33. Neither team shot well from the charity stripe, with both the Knights and Wildcats misfiring on 11 free throws apiece. Berkeley was 12-for-23 from the line (52.2 percent), and Johnson & Wales University (Charlotte) was 16-for-27 (59.3 percent).
The Knights will return to action on Wednesday, January 24, as Berkeley will take on Division II Mercy College. The game will be played at Nyack, and is scheduled to begin at 7:00pm.