GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - Sophomores Kam Cerroni (Sussex, Wis.) and Terry Johnson (Chicago, Ill.) made huge plays down the stretch for Green Bay on both ends of the floor late in Tuesday night's game at the Resch Center, helping the Phoenix (13-14, 8-8 HL) to a hard-fought 71-67 victory over visiting Cleveland State (20-9, 10-6 HL) on Senior Night.
With the win, Green Bay closed out its regular season home slate with a 12-2 record and kept hope alive that it will return next Tuesday night to host a Horizon League Tournament game.The Phoenix has won six of its last eight games.
"I'm just proud we could close it out for our seniors," said head coach Brian Wardle. "This crowd was great. It was a great win for us. We've got some momentum now going into our last two road games and I'm just hoping we can come out and play well against a very hot Loyola team that's playing really well right now."
Down 62-60 with 4:10 to play after an Anton Grady layup, Green Bay scored nine of the next 11 points, in large part thanks to its guard play on both ends of the floor. After a Phoenix free throw, freshman Keifer Sykes (Chicago, Ill.) got a steal on one end and scored on the other for a 63-62 lead.
After another stop, Cerroni drained a deep three-pointer, his fifth of the game, off a nice pass from Johnson. CSU scored on the next trip to cut its deficit to two, and Johnson turned it over for the Phoenix, seemingly handing the momentum right back to the visitors. The sophomore hustled back though, tapping the ball out of the hands of Marlin Mason to Cerroni.
On the ensuing possession, junior Brennan Cougill (Sioux City, Iowa) kicked the ball to Johnson at the top of the key, and the sophomore buried a triple for a 69-64 lead with 1:50 to play.
Tim Kamczyc hit a Viking three on the other end to cut the lead to two, and Green Bay had to survive a missed free throw and two Cleveland State offensive rebounds. Trevon Harmon, who had 13 points in the first half before being held scoreless in the second, missed a three that was tracked down 25 feet from the bucket by Cerroni, who was fouled.
The sophomore knocked down both free throws to make it a two possession game and close out the Phoenix victory. Cerroni made 5-of-8 from long range and led Green Bay with 17 points. As a team, Green Bay knocked down 10-of-21 three-pointers, including 6-of-13 in the second half.
In two games against Cleveland State this season, Cerroni is 10-of-16 from long range and has not attempted a two-pointer. He has made a three-pointer in 16 games in a row and leads the Horizon League in three-point percentage at 46.6 percent.
"He's worked real hard on how quick his trigger is now. I tell him all the time, 'locked', and he goes, 'loaded,'" said Wardle. "At all times on the floor he's got to be locked and loaded because they're denying him. They were keying on him but he does a great job in transition breaking free, getting out of his defender's vision, finding open spots, and when he catches it it's off quick."
Johnson provided a spark off the Phoenix bench, playing the final 9:51 of the game. He helped slow Harmon and added seven points and three assists in 13 total minutes.
Sykes played all but 25 seconds in the contest and totaled 13 points, five assists and four rebounds. He had 11 of his points in the first half when Green Bay built a 22-11 lead early before falling behind. A layup by the freshman point guard tied the game at 36-36 going into halftime.
The Phoenix, in the midst of four games in eight days, will return to action Thursday night at Loyola before concluding its regular season Saturday at 1 p.m. at UIC. With wins and some help, Green Bay has a chance to finish in the top-six in the Horizon League standings and host a first-round tournament game next Tuesday at the Resch Center.
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