Hawks stun Dayton in an A-10 thriller

Posted: January 24, 2010

For once, the look of exhaustion on Garrett Williamson's face was accompanied by a smile and a deep sense of satisfaction as the horn sounded to end last night's thrilling Atlantic Ten Conference game at noisy Hagan Arena.

The intensity and intelligent play of St. Joseph's gritty captain had never wavered as the losses mounted, and the 6-foot-5 senior from Lower Merion High wasn't about to allow a huge victory to slip away as Dayton guard Rob Lowery raced downcourt to attempt the winning shot.

Somehow, Williamson, who played 38 of the 40 minutes, found enough energy to leap and swat away Lowery's short jumper with four seconds remaining to preserve a stunning 60-59 win over one of the A-10's leading contenders.

"He was just trying to push it down to get a good shot, and I just kind of waited on him," Williamson explained. "I didn't want him to drop it off to my man on the opposite side. Once I saw he committed to the shot, I just timed it, and I went and got it."

The win was easily the biggest of the season for the Hawks (7-11, 2-3 A-10). Four of Dayton's losses have come against teams that were either nationally ranked or received votes in the Associated Press poll. Also, the Flyers (14-5, 3-2) are bigger, stronger, faster and deeper than St. Joe's, which is why coach Phil Martelli played more zone defense than at any other time in the last three seasons.

"If we'd lined up and played man-to-man, we would have been hurt in a lot of ways," he said.

The Hawks led most of the way, but Dayton constantly was breathing down their necks. St. Joe's biggest lead came with 5 minutes, 25 seconds remaining, when Williamson scored off a fastbreak to make it 54-45. But with the score 60-57, a turnover by St. Joe's senior Darrin Govens led to a basket by Chris Wright that made it 60-59 with 15 seconds to play. Charoy Bentley then missed the first half of a one-and-one, and the crowd held its breath, then erupted in cheers when Williamson blocked Lowery's shot.

"It was a good fight, certainly a good fistfight against an elite team, not only in this league but an elite team in the country," Martelli said. "This is a very difficult building, and we play better in this building than anywhere else."

Williamson, one of the top defenders in the conference, led St. Joe's with 15 points. He also had five rebounds and three steals. Idris Hilliard had 13 points and six rebounds as St. Joe's won despite shooting 39.6 percent and getting outrebounded, 42-29.

Several NBA scouts were there to see Dayton's Chris Wright, and they got an eyeful. The muscular 6-8 junior scored 28 points, including 17 in the first half, a career high.

"A wonderful, wonderful performance by Chris Wright, for sure," Martelli said.

But the Hawks' defense made it difficult for the rest of the Flyers. Aside from Wright, Dayton shot 10 for 41. The Flyers had been averaging 73 points.

"That was a good step forward for this group," Martelli said.

Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo at 215-854-2743 or rparrillo@phillynews.com

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