Matty McConnell’s run with Robert Morris basketball ends with CIT loss |
Robert Morris

Matty McConnell’s run with Robert Morris basketball ends with CIT loss

Robert Morris guard Matty McConnell attempts to drive around Louisville forward Jordan Nwora (33) during the first half Friday, Dec. 21, 2018.

He showed little emotion, but the moment was big for Matty McConnell.

Robert Morris’ do-it-all senior guard, who once scored 54 points in a game for Chartiers Valley, had just played in his final game for the Colonials.

He walked off the court to an ovation louder than what the sparse crowd would indicate Sunday at RMU’s tiny North Athletic Complex after fouling out with 7.5 seconds left in a 77-70 loss to Presbyterian in the Postseason Tournament.

His teammates hugged him. He embraced his coach, Andy Toole, who’s been a mentor during his four solid seasons.

“I know I’m going to miss this place,” McConnell said. “Andy showed me the ways. I wouldn’t be the player I am today without him. He’s always put me in the right position to be successful, and I’m forever thankful for that.”

Of course, McConnell’s dad, who coached him at Chartiers Valley during a long run of leading the boys program before taking over as girls coach this season, cheered with the enthusiasm of a proud father already with one son (Philadelphia 76ers guard T.J. McConnell) playing in the NBA.

“I just turned and said to my wife, ‘What a career he’s had here!’ ” said Tim McConnell, who scrambled back from Hershey in time to catch Matty’s game after coaching the Chartiers Valley girls to a PIAA Class 5A championship on Saturday night.

Tim McConnell won more than 500 games as Chartiers Valley boys coach, reaching two state finals but never winning it all.

He said he was walking up the sidewalk at Robert Morris, when he could hear the national anthem. He turned to his assistant and remarked they had just made it in time.

The Chartiers Valley girls team departed Hershey at 8 a.m. Sunday, and McConnell arrived at his Oakdale home, a 15-minute drive from Robert Morris’ campus, at 12:30 p.m.

“I told the girls (Saturday) night that I was sorry to have to do this, but we have to leave Sunday morning at 8 because I need to be back to see my son’s game,” McConnell said.

“Watching him blossom into the player he’s become, graduating in four years, I’m so proud of him, and I’m sorry to see it end.”

For his part, Matty made sure he joined his family in making the trip to Hershey on Saturday to support his dad and sister Megan, who led Chartiers Valley with 10 rebounds in a 53-40 victory over Archbishop Carroll.

“He’s always been there for me,” Matty McConnell said of his father. “He’s taught me so many things. That’s my No. 1 supporter. I love him and thank him so much.”

Matty McConnell, who got back to Robert Morris in the wee hours of Sunday morning, might turn out to be a decent pro basketball player somewhere, perhaps overseas. He could develop into a splendid coach at some point along the line.

After all, besides his father, there’s some other well-known coaches by the name of McConnell from the area (Suzie, Tom and Kathy all have coached at various ranks, including at the college level. Tom currently coaches the IUP women’s team.).

But what Matty McConnell will be known for is being one of the most versatile basketball players to put on a Robert Morris uniform.

“He’s grown a ton. He’s grown a lot,” Toole said following the Colonials’ second-round CIT loss. “He had his best year this year, which was awesome for him. We needed it. He’s the most consistent he’s been. He’s always had the ability to defend, rebound and make plays. We’ll miss those qualities.”

McConnell and Robert Morris closed an 18-17 season in disappointing fashion in the CIT, losing a 13-point halftime lead, when Presbyterian (20-15) used an 18-0 burst to start the second half and take control.

The 6-foot-2 McConnell’s final college game produced 10 points, three assists and four steals, five days after he scored a career-high 27 points in a first-round, 98-89 overtime victory over Cornell.

A four-year starter, McConnell made his 129th appearance Sunday for Robert Morris, tying him with Jeremy Chappell (2005-09) for ninth on the school’s all-time list.

What’s more, his 120 starts are tied with Chappell for second behind only the 125 by Velton Jones from 2009-13.

McConnell also joins Chappell as Robert Morris’ only players to eclipse career totals of 1,000 points (1,156, 18th all time), 500 rebounds (520), 300 assists (304), 200 steals (241) and 200 3-point shots (202).

“I knew it was going to come to an end soon, but I didn’t want it to come to an end today,” McConnell said. “It hasn’t hit me yet. I still feel like I have to wake up for practice tomorrow.”

Dave Mackall is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

Categories: Sports | Robert Morris
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