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Last-second free throws lift Griffs to second straight win

Jacco Fritz scored the game-winning free throw and was named to the all-tournament team for the Lake Erie Challenge (Aidan Joly/The Griffin)

It took coming back from multiple deficits in the second half and a last-second free throw, but Canisius was able to pull out a pre-Thanksgiving victory against Coppin State on Wednesday, a 76-75 home win.

After owning a five-point lead at the break, the Griffs slowed down a bit in the second half and trailed by as many as seven in the second half and allowed Coppin State to own a 73-68 lead with three minutes to play.

In the final seconds of the game, down three, Jordan Henderson hit a three to tie the game at 75 with 36 seconds to play. After a miss from Coppin State’s Jesse Zarzuela, Jacco Fritz drove to the paint and drew a foul with 1.1 seconds on the clock. He made the first free throw to give the Griffs the lead and intentionally missed the second, giving the Griffs their second win of the season and first against a Division I opponent.

“I worked hard with the coaches over the summer to improve my shot,” Fritz said. “But I don’t think it was just the last possession of the game with the free throws, I think it was the whole game, from beginning to end.”

Fritz finished the game with eight points and tacked on eight rebounds.

That resiliency was the theme of the day for the Griffs as they came back from multiple second half deficits. It was a game that Coppin State did not lead until nine and a half minutes remaining in the game.

“They’ve gotten so much better, and they’ve played a number of games and they seem to get better with each game,” Canisius head coach Reggie Witherspoon said. “After you’ve had a lead and had your opponent come back and take the lead, now you’ve got to dig down inside of yourself and not put your head down. You’ve got to really dig down and have a belief and a spirit about yourselves as a team, so that was good to see.”

Malek Green also came up with some big shots down the stretch. He finished with 21 points, second on the team. 10 of those points came in the second half.

“It says a lot. I think we’re built for it, we’ve been doing it all year and we have just got to keep improving for 40 minutes so we don’t have to always be in those types of situations,” Green said.

While it was Green in the second half, Armon Harried was the one who came up big in the first. He had 19 points in the first 20 minutes of the game and finished with a game-high 22 points on 8-14 shooting.

“He wasn’t going to go down with the bat on his shoulder, that’s for sure. He made some really difficult shots in the beginning of this game,” Witherspoon said. “He kept fighting.”

The Griffs are now 2-4 on the season after the victory, kicking off the homestand with two straight wins. They will see Cornell next to continue the homestand on Monday night.

“I think it’s great to just have your people here,” Fritz said. “I think that’s really helped the team.”

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