By Anthony Mitchell
For The Daily Item
SELINSGROVE -- With the clock winding down in the first half, Ross Danzig had the ball and a look at the basket.
Scranton's guard launched a shot from the top of the key that didn't fall with one-tenth of a second left but did earn him a trip to the foul line. Danzig calmly swished three free throws despite the noise from the Susquehanna faithful to extend the Royals' lead.
Behind the play of Danzig, the Landmark Conference's leading scorer entering the game, Scranton defeated Susquehanna, 82-68, in the conference opener for both schools.
Danzig hit his season average on the nose, scoring 22 points by frequently driving to both sides of the lane for layups.
"He does everything for them," Susquehanna head coach Frank Marcinek said.
Aside from leading his team in scoring, Danzig frequently found open looks for his teammates, drawing the defense and passing off before crashing the backboard for a rebound. Cementing his all-around effort, Danzig added nine rebounds and seven assists.
Spreading the ball around to a number of shooters, the Royals (5-1, 1-0 LC) ended the first half with a 15-4 run to seize control of a game that had been mostly back-and-forth.
"I thought we were right there," Marcinek said. "I thought we played hard. I thought our offense would come."
Marcinek said struggles at the free throw line, along with the critical foul to Danzig, affected the Crusaders (3-3, 0-1).
"We just self-destructed in the last 2:32 (of the half)," Marcinek said.
The Royals ended the half by making their last five shots. Although the streak ended with a miss on Scranton's first shot of the second half, two Crusaders turnovers allowed the Royals to stretch their lead to 18 points after leading 45-32 at the break.
The Crusaders scored five straight points to cut into the deficit, but a 3-pointer and a pair of trips to the free throw line for Danzig allowed the Royals to push the lead to 19.
Susquehanna got to the foul line plenty (28 attempts) but had trouble converting, making just nine.
A pair of threes from Michael Barr with about seven minute left extended the Scranton lead to 25. The Crusaders answered with Steven Weidlich hitting one of his six 3-pointers before Jake Eskin and Mike Perillo converted to cut the lead to 78-60. Perillo scored six points in his first action of the season for the Crusaders, hitting three of his four shots.
Early in the game, Susquehanna appeared to feed off a rambunctious student section with Brandon Hedley draining a 3-pointer from the right wing despite contact and sinking the free throw for a four-point play.
The Crusaders jumped out to a 7-2 advantage as Susquehanna kept the ball largely out of Danzig's hands and forced other Royals to create.
After the Royals cut the lead to one with a 3-pointer and a jumper sandwiched around a dunk by Susquehanna's Harley Sellinger, Danzig made his presence felt on the perimeter. He received a pass from Mike Marchman and knocked down a three from the top of the key to give the Royals their first lead of the game.
Eskin quickly tied the game with a layup, but Scranton knocked down a second 3-pointer to go ahead as Tommy Morgan found the bottom of the net.
While the Crusaders were finding their range from the outside, the Royals consistently stayed in front with dribble penetration.
Weidlich's consistent shot-making helped the Crusaders' cause. The Susquehanna freshman kept the game close in the first half by hitting a 3-pointer when Scranton tried to make a run and nailed a three with 3:38 left in the first half to cut the Royals' lead to 30-28. He finished with a team-high 20 points for the Crusaders.