HARRISONBURG, VA --- Rivalry games often have interesting twists, and this one sure did. The Runnin Royals hosted rival Bridgewater Wednesday night, and let a double digit lead slip away over the final minutes as the Eagles stole a crucial 79-77 decision.
Eastern Mennonite led by as many as seven points in the first half, but BC regrouped and took a 41-39 edge into halftime.
The Royals came out of the locker room strong with Owen Longacre (Telford, PA/Christopher Dock) and R.J. Sims (Fort Washington, MD/Friendly) combining to score the first seven points, pushing the men in front 46-41. Bridgewater got back to within one point, but then Adam Burroughs (Roanoke, VA/Northside) nailed back-to-back threes to trigger a 10-0 run, giving EMU the biggest lead for either team at 65-54 with 7:53 to go.
With five minutes remaining, the Runnin Royals still led 70-60. Then play got sloppy. Both teams were committing unnecessary fouls. Bridgewater made the most of the opportunity, making free throws and three pointers to slice into the lead.
After an EMU turnover, the Eagles missed a three pointer but earned another possession with an offensive rebound. Tavis Stapleton (Carthage, TX/Carthage) buried a jumper with 1:09 to go, knotting the score at 76-76.
The Royals went inside to Andrew Thorne (Front Royal, VA/Skyline), but the junior had his shot blocked by Ed Reddick (Virginia Beach, VA/Kellam). Sophomore Ronnie Thomas (Roanoke, VA/Patrick Henry) then nailed a triple from the right wing, putting the Eagles up 79-76 with 21 seconds to go play. It was the visitors' first lead since the start of the second half.
Eastern Mennonite decided to attack the hoop with a little time on the clock, but Dajon Daniel (Fredericksburg, VA/Mountain View) came up short on his layup with 12 seconds left. The drama was not over, however.
Matthew Hunter (Newport News, VA/Woodside) was fouled, but the BC freshman left the outcome in doubt as he missed both free throws with 8.7 to play.
Burroughs then missed a potentially game-tying three pointer from a couple of feet back, but Randell Smith (Woodbridge, VA/Garfield) was fouled getting the rebound with 0.6 seconds left. Needing a make and a miss for the best chance at a tie, Smith missed the first attempt. He tried to bank the second attempt out for a long rebound, but the toss actually caught too much of the rim and went in, providing the final 79-77 tally.
Bridgewater erased a 10-point deficit as the Eagles closed the game on a 19-7 run.
EMU Coach Kirby Dean was stung by the loss.
"That was a tough one," he said. "Every loss is tough, but that one hurt. Give Bridgewater credit, they hit some shots down the stretch."
The Royals had a 40-31 edge in rebounding, including 16-6 on the offensive glass. The men gave away the edge, however, by shooting just 38% from the floor and going 26-for-41 from the free throw line for 63%. The Eagles put in 47% of their shots, including a sizzling 22-for-27 from the charity stripe for 82%.
The starting five played much of the second half, as free throws and timeouts slowed the game down. Burroughs and Longacre each scored 15. Burroughs nailed a season best five triples. Longacre went 7-12 from the free throw line and pulled down eight boards, including five offensive.
Thorne finished with 14 points and eight rebounds. Daniels went 8-for-10 from the stripe and charted 10 points. Sims added a game high five steals.
Kenneth Waugh (Wytheville, VA/George Wythe) hit a trio of three pointers and led BC with 15 points. Thomas finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and four steals.
Eastern Mennonite slips to 9-13 overall and 4-9 in the ODAC. The Eagles improve to 6-16 and 3-10. With three games to go, EMU is tied with Emory & Henry for the crucial eighth seed in the ODAC Tournament. The men play the Wasps in Emory this Saturday at 2:00pm. The winner of that game will have the inside track at the final spot to host an ODAC Tournament First Round game.