Nazareth MBB falls to Utica in E8 semi-finals

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UTICA, N.Y. — Second-seeded Utica had four double-digit scorers Friday as the Pioneers outscored third-seeded Nazareth, 69-59, in a semifinal matchup of the Empire 8 Conference Tournament for men’s basketball.

Utica improved to 9-2 overall and will compete Sunday at St. John Fisher for the Empire 8 Conference title at 1 p.m. Fisher defeated Russell Sage, 66-63, in the other semifinal game. Nazareth’s season ends at 8-4 overall.

Sophomore Logan Blankenberg led the Golden Flyers with a career-high 15 points in a reserve role. Junior Jonathan Park added 12 points and 11 rebounds and senior Stephen Gabel contributed 10.

Nazareth, which defeated Elmira in a Tuesday evening quarterfinal game, led 32-30 at halftime on the strength of eight points apiece from Blankenberg and Park and seven from Isaac Nelson. Nazareth led by as many as four points on four separate occasions in the first half, but Utica regained the lead late in the half. Nazareth finished with baskets by Nelson and Blankenberg to go up 32-30.

Nazareth shot poorly in the second half in making just 10 of 30 shots (33.3%) with just two three-point baskets. Utica took advantage as Kobe Lufkin scored 10 of his team-high 16 points with three three-pointers. The Pioneers embarked on an 18-5 scoring run over the first nine minutes of the second half to create a double-digit lead from which Nazareth could not recover.

Nazareth closed to within eight points, 59-51, following a basket by Gabel with 3:10 left, but Lufkin sank three-point shots on Utica’s next two possessions to enable the Pioneers to stay comfortably ahead.

Avery Coston (13), Chris Green (12) ad Darius Hopkins (12) were Utica’s other double-digit scorers.

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