HARRISONBURG, VA --- The Runnin Royals closed the first half on a small run and rode the momentum to a 61-58 win over Messiah College on Saturday in Harrisonburg. EMU overcame a 14-point deficit from the first half as the men head into Christmas break with a 6-4 record.
They have two-and-a-half weeks off before their next game, a contest with rival Bridgewater on Jan. 6 in Yoder Arena. With the win over Messiah, now 3-7, the Royals also wrap up their non-conference slate, as all 14 games left are against ODAC teams.
Led by their outside shooting, including a trio of three balls, Eastern Mennonite treated the Alumni Appreciation Day crowd of 806 and took an 11-5 lead at the 13:27 mark. But Messiah's interior height frustrated the men's attempts to get inside and their outside shooting went cold, as the Royals wouldn't get another field goal for the next 11:25.
Darryl Christian (Forest, Va./Brookville) hit a free throw with 4:07 left in the half to end an 18-0 Falcon run. But Luke Cable answered with a three pointer to give Messiah their biggest lead at 26-12.
Christian Hansen (Manassas Park, Va./Osbourn Park) provided a pair of free throws before Maleke Jones (Charles Town, W.V./Washington) sliced to the hoop for layup with 2:02 left, triggering the men. Cable hit another jumper, but Isaiah Harris-Winn (Frederick, Md./St. Maria Goretti) drained a three and another bucket as Eastern Mennonite ended the half on a 9-2 run. The late spurt not only got the men within seven points at the break at 28-21, but also gave them renewed confidence in their offense.
After shooting just 22% from the floor in the first half, the Royals opened the second with a three pointer from Jerome Jones (Charles Town, W.V./Washington). Messiah got back-to-back buckets to push their lead back to eight, but EMU kept coming.
Khalil Davis (Harrisonburg, Va./Spotswood) flushed in a trey with 13:31 to go, giving the Royals their first lead since the opening minutes at 35-34. Xavier McCants (Olney, Md./Sherwood) later added a layup to cap a 13-2 run for a 37-34 edge.
The Falcons re-took a 44-43 lead after a three pointer from Cable, but RaShawn Latimer (Warrenton, Va./Kettle Run) answered with a three-point play and Harris-Winn scored four straight to put EMU back up, 50-44. Messiah scored four to slice the lead down to two, but Harris-Winn and Sammy Thomas (Owings, Md./Northern) scored all the points in the 6-0 run to give EMU their biggest lead at 56-48 with 2:43 remaining.
Messiah got a pair of three pointers in the final 17 seconds to get within two, but Jerome Jones hit a free throw with three ticks left and the Falcons missed an out-of-offense three at the buzzer to leave the Royals on top, 61-58.
Despite being out-shot 42% to 33% in the game, Eastern Mennonite made up their edge in two areas. They forced 12 turnovers in the second half and had a 21-8 advantage for the game. At the free throw line the Royals were 13-23 while Messiah was just 3-4.
Harris-Winn led EMU with 18 points and five rebounds. Jerome Jones hit a trio of threes and added 12 points and three steals. Latimer had nine points and three assists, while Thomas added six points and six boards off the bench.
Cable turned into the Falcons' only consistent offensive threat as he hit 5-of-10 three pointers and scored a game high 24 points with five assists. Geoff Boyle added 11 points and eight rebounds.