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Metro Atlantic Finals Preview

March 11, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Metro Atlantic Finals Preview

Preview by Jesse Ullmann

(1) Manhattan Jaspers v. (2) Niagara Purple Eagles
It will be exactly one year tomorrow when Luis Flores’ turnover in the waning seconds of a semifinal game versus Niagara nearly cost Manhattan a MAAC championship title. The Jaspers won that game in double overtime advancing to the championship and the NCAA tournament, losing to the eventual national champion Syracuse in the First Round.

While Niagara looks for redemption, Manhattan’s star point guard has been nothing short of spectacular in 2004, declaring himself a back-to-back winner of the MAAC Player of the Year award and a Wooden Award All-American nominee. Averaging 24.2 points per game, Flores (NY, NY) scored a season high 32 yesterday in a semifinal blowout against Saint Peters. When Flores has no opening he dishes it down low to Second Team All-MAAC selection senior forward David Holmes (Washington, DC), who averages 12.8 ppg along with 8.5 rebounds per game.

“1969-2004: You Gotta Believe,” Niagara hopefuls yesterday displayed a message on t-shirts in a 79-74 semifinal victory over Siena. 25 years ago, when Scott Layden’s father Frank was head coach of the Niagara Purple Eagles and the legendary Calvin Murphy was its star player, Niagara made an appearance in the NCAA tournament. They will look to repeat as the 1969 team did on national television tonight.

The Purple Eagles are led by First Team All-MAAC selection, junior forward Juan Mendez (Quebec). Mendez averages 20.2 ppg and 8.3 rpg. Lately though senior guard Tremmel Darden (Las Vegas) has been the story scoring 20-plus points in both tournament games so far. Darden averages 17.6 ppg and is a Second Team All-MAAC selection.

Manhattan won both meetings this year over Niagara and will look to sweep. This is the 23rd MAAC championship game and Manhattan is making their sixth appearance.

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