BRIDGEWATER, VA --- Beating a team three times in one season is tough. The Runnin Royals proved this to be true in Tuesday night's game, pulling away from Bridgewater College in the final three minutes of the ODAC Tournament First Round.
The men earned their first lead of the night midway through the second half and made it stick when Christian Hansen blocked two BC shots in the final five seconds.
Eastern Mennonite advances to the quarterfinals of the ODAC Tournament, where they will play top-seeded Randolph-Macon Friday at 1:00 at the Salem Civic Center.
EMU and R-MC only played once during the regular season, with the Royals capturing a thrilling overtime victory, 70-69, on the Yellow Jacket's home court in Ashland, Va.
The ninth-seeded Royals (11-14/5-11 ODAC) had lost to BC twice during the regular season by a combined total of three points. It took most of the game on Tuesday night for EMU to get things going.
Against the Eagles (14-12/8-8 ODAC), EMU gave up the first three baskets and fell in a 21-10 hole at the 10:21 mark. Over the next couple of minutes, the Royals built a 9-4 run and came within six points at 25-19. The Eagles then answered by scoring on the next three possessions to bump the cushion to 31-19. Travis Clower (Romney, W.V./Hampshire) sunk a couple of tosses from the stripe, making it 31-21.
EMU ended its first-half scoring from behind the charity stripe, including senior RaShawn Latimer (Warrenton, Va./Kettle Run) draining his 1,000 career point. However, the free throws weren't enough to cut a double-digit deficit, as the Royals trailed 41-31 heading into the break.
Maleke Jones (Charles Town, W.V./Washington) started the second half with a hot hand after draining back-to-back treys to bring EMU within four points at 41-37. From there, the two teams traded trips on either end with BC remaining in the lead.
However, at the 10:43 mark, Isaiah Harris-Winn (Frederick, Md./St. Maria Goretti) came up with a big steal and drove to the hole, drawing the foul and converting on the three-point play to give the Royals their first lead of the night, 50-49. The Eagles scored on the next possession, but it was Sammy Thomas (Owings, Md. / Northern) who pulled down an offensive rebound to give Maleke Jones a shot from three for the lead at 53-51 with 8:59 remaining.
The game remained tight from there with neither team gaining more than a four-point advantage. Clower and Latimer hit back-to-back threes to make it 63-59 before Harris-Winn hit a couple of free throws to bump the margin to six. At the two minute mark, the Eagles dished ball to TJ Turner well beyond the arc who hit the three to make it 65-62.
Hansen pulled down an offensive rebound and scored before an EMU foul on the other end, allowing BC back within three points at 67-64. Harris-Winn responded with a layup on the other end, but BC drained a crucial three in response to cut the deficit down to two.
With 21 seconds left and a two-point game, the Royals turned the ball over which led to a BC timeout in an effort to either tie the game or seal the deal. Neither was the outcome for the Eagles thanks to Hansen as he blocked two shots. The first swat came from inside the paint on a potential game-tying layup with five seconds remaining. The Eagles inbounded and looked for a three-point shot from the corner, but Hansen was there again to shut down the shot with four seconds left.
Bridgewater got the ball inbounds again and Zach Breathwaite was fouled with 3.5 seconds remaining. Breathwaite missed the first foul shot and then attempted to miss the second on purpose, but a lane violation turned the ball over to the Royals.
Clower was fouled with 2.2 seconds left and went one-for-two from the line, giving the Royals a go-ahead 70-67 lead. BC came up with the rebound but a desparate 75-footer was no where near close as the Royals ran away with the three-point victory.
Maleke Jones led all scorers with 20 points. Harris-Winn earned another double-double, finishing with 14 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. Clower came off the bench for an 11-point performance.
Head Coach Kirby Dean comments on the men's performance: