ATLANTIC CITY - St. Joseph's took care of the first part and Temple held up its end. The question now: Which is the team of destiny?
The Hawks and Owls will meet for an all-Big Five Atlantic Ten Conference championship - and the rubber match - after Temple posted an ugly duckling win over Charlotte, 60-45, in the A-10 tournament semifinals tonight at Boardwalk Hall.
Isn't that way it should be?
St. Joe's knocked off Xavier, 61-53, in the first semifinal, dramatically improving its NCAA tournament chances, if not securing them. The Owls likely have more work if they want to keep their March Madness dreams alive. Standing in their way, of course, are the Hawks, who battled Temple in two memorable regular-season meetings.
St. Joe's took the first game when Pat Calathes drained a dagger of a last-second three-pointer. The Owls stole the rematch with an epic comeback and a late bucket by Mark Tyndale.
Tomorrow night's showdown will start at 6.
For much of the last month, it looked as if the city's teams would not be represented in the NCAA tourney for the first time since 1977. Now, there's no way Philadelphia will be shut out. And if Temple wins tomorrow night, it's conceivable that both the Hawks and the Owls will be on the board when the 65-team field is announced tomorrow.
Temple (20-12), in part, has Mark Tyndale to thank. The senior, despite many turnovers, was able to get to the hoop when it mattered - on offense and defense. He finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds - and eight turnovers.
Though leading scorer Dionte Christmas had an off night, the Owls received pivotal contributions from their role players. Ryan Brooks (eight points, all in the second half) hit several key shots every time it looked as if Charlotte was poised to make a damaging run. Chris Clark (13 points) wasn't as brilliant as he had been in his last two games, but the senior guard was big in the first half. And freshman Lavoy Allen had nine rebounds and four blocked shots.
The Owls have won six in a row and 14 of their last 18 games. They are 13-9 all time in A-10 semifinals and will be attempting to win their seventh tourney title and first since 2001.
The early part of the second half was a lot like the first - Charlotte (20-13) still couldn't shoot and Temple still couldn't hang onto the ball. But Christmas made a couple of jumpers - the second a trey - and the Owls led, 36-21, with 17 minutes, 30 seconds remaining.
But the 49ers kept it close, bringing Temple down to its junk-ball level. They didn't play a poor brand of defense, however, and when the Owls went cold, the 49ers capitalized. A Charlie Coley put-back cut the deficit to 42-36 with 9 minutes, 7 seconds remaining. But he missed a free throw after getting fouled and Lamont Mack failed to take advantage of one of Charlotte's rare offensive rebounds when he missed on an open three-pointer.
Still, the streaky-shooting Leemire Goldwire connected on a trey minutes later and the 49ers were behind, 44-39, the closest they had been since the first half.
But Brooks muscled a layup and Tyndale stroked a trey and Temple was up, 49-39, with 4:35 to go.
If fans of offense had come to the second semifinal looking for it, Temple-Charlotte didn't deliver. Both teams looked tight, except that the Owls were effective in certain areas and took a 28-19 lead to the break.
In some ways it was a replay of the Feb. 23 meeting between the squads. The 49ers were horrible in the first half of that game, shooting 21 percent from the field. They never recovered and lost, 75-61. Tonight they were better - but barely. They made only 7 of 25 shots from the floor while the Owls were not much better, converting 9 of 24 (37.5 percent).
But Temple dominated the boards, outrebounding Charlotte, 25-12. Which raised an eyebrow, considering that the 49ers had a 52-29 advantage in rebounds in the previous night's quarterfinal win over Massachusetts.
For the Owls, Mark Tyndale led with eight rebounds, but Allen and Sergio Olmos combined for seven of team's eight offensive rebounds. Allen, meanwhile, blocked two shots without committing a foul.
Temple's fatal first-half flaw, though, was turnovers. The Owls gave away nine with Tyndale contributing four. Another reason for worry was the absence of Dionte Christmas. The A-10's leading scorer was held to just one point in the first 20 minutes, in part because he sat eight minutes with two fouls.
But Clark continued his Cinderella second half of the season, scoring nine points off the bench as Owls led from the start never to trail.