VIRGINIA BEACH -- Twice after No. 24-ranked Randolph College edged in front of host Virginia Wesleyan College to take the lead late in the game, the visiting WildCats saw and Heard the host Marlins take it back.
Actually, they saw Colby Heard (Virginia Beach/Tallwood) come up big for Virginia Wesleyan as the 6-foot-6 junior six of his nine total points in a two minute span to help the Marlins regain control of momentum en route to a 72-66 victory over the previously undefeated WildCats.
Heard twice came through for big plays to return the lead to Virginia Wesleyan (10-4, 6-0) after senior Colton Hunt (Whittier, N.C./Smoky Mountain), the nation's sixth-ranked scorer, hit jumpers to give Randolph (13-1, 5-1) its only leads of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference game.
Heard put down a powerful dunk off an offensive rebound to tie the game at 52 and hit a free throw seconds later to give VWC a 53-52 lead. A Hunt jumper gave Randolph the lead at 54-53, but Heard came through with a three-point play, with an assist from junior DJ Woodmore (Virginia Beach/Landstown), and Virginia Wesleyan lad 56-54 with 6:03 on the clock.
Virginia Wesleyan pushed out to a six-point lead several times in the closing minutes, as scores from senior Art Crew (Williamsburg/Lafayette), seniors Chris Teasley (Newport News/Menchville) and Tre' Ford (Falls Church/J.E.B. Stuart), Woodmore and Heard combined to help keep the Marlins in the lead.
Randolph closed within a 60-59 score after Mike Ehilegbu (Raliegh, N.C./Ravenscroft) nailed a three-ponter with 3:20 remaining. But, Woodmore hit a free throw and Crew hit a jumper to pad the lead again for Virginia Wesleyan.
Ehilegbu's triple was the only triple made by the WildCats in the final six minutes. Randolph launched five long-range attempts and hit only 2-of-10 field goal attempts overall to close the game. The 'Cats did hit 7-of-11 free throws in the same time frame to keep VWC from pulling away.
Virginia Wesleyan started strong, building a 21-10 lead in the first eight minutes. Long-range shooting catapulted the Marlins into the lead as VWC hit 5-of-8 triples in the first eight minutes, with five different Marlins hitting.
A 12-2 Randolph run led by DJ Langley (Raleigh, N.C./Ravenscroft) with four points cut the spread to 23-22, but Virginia Wesleyan responded with its own run. Sophomore Cameron Owens (Centerville/Centreville) nailed a jumper to spark a 14-2 run that gave VWC its largest lead of the first half at 37-24 with 2:03 remaining in the first half.
Randolph pared it back to 40-31 at halftime however, helped by the scoring of sophomore James Fitzgerald (Fredericksburg/Courtland). He scored seven of his total nine points in the final 1:40 of the half.
Virginia Wesleyan rebuilt its lead to 12 points in the first four minutes of the second half, before Randolph started its final run. After Corey Brown (Williamsburg/Walsingham) scored on a layup, Hunt ended a scoreless stretch by both teams by hitting a triple that cut the VWC lead to 48-42 with 11:50 on the clock.
Hunt hit another triple shortly thereafter to help the 'Cats continue their comeback, which resulted in Randolph's first lead of the game at 50-48 on a Fitzgerald jumper. RookieSedric Nady (Chicago, Ill./Virginia Beach Landstown) answered for the Marlins to tie the score, starting a back-and-forth battle until Heard's jumper gave Virginia Wesleyan the lead for good with 6:03 remaininig in the game.
Hunt led all scoring with 29 points, hitting 10-of-27 field goal attempts. He also tied for the lead in rebounding with Chris Battaglia (Smithfield/Portsmouth Christian), each with eight caroms. Evan Horn (Westminster, Md./Winters Mill) helped the 'Cats with five assists.
VWC produced a balanced attack as Ford, Teasley and Owens scored 11 points each, followed by Nady and Heard with nine each and Chris Astorga (Suffolk/Virginia Beach Cape Henry Collegiate) with seven each. The Marlins nailed seven triples, led by Owens with three. Woodmore and Ford pulled down seven rebounds each for VWC, Ford added four assists and Woodmore finished with three steals.
Virginia Wesleyan competes again on Tuesday, Jan. 15, in ODAC competition, hosting the Royals (10-5, 3-3) of Eastern Mennonite University at 7 p.m.