HARRISONBURG, VA -- If close losses make you better down the road, Eastern Mennonite will become a incredible force to be reckoned with. The Runnin Royals had their chances against the ODAC's preseason favorite Virginia Wesleyan men, but came up short in a 96-94 overtime loss in Harrisonburg.
It was the third straight two-point loss for the Royals, who slip to 6-7 overall and 1-4 in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference. The Marlins improve to 9-5 and 4-1, regaining a share of first place in the league standings.
Last week EMU lost 84-82 in OT against Bridgewater and 70-68 at Guilford. The men stay home this weekend, hosting Emory & Henry on Saturday at 3:00pm.
VWC came out on fire Wednesday night, canning three triples over the first 1:53 of play. The visitors led by as many as 14 points in the first half, including at 40-26 with 4:35 left in the frame.
Isaiah Harris-Winn (Frederick, Md./St. Maria Goretti) then connected on a pair of free throws and threw down a dunk on EMU's next possession to trigger a run. The Royals used a quick 12-3 spurt to get within five points, and trailed just 45-40 at the intermission.
The momentum carried into the second. After trading points early, Eastern Mennonite scored 13 unanswered points to take their first lead. Harris-Winn capped the run with a three ball to build a 55-48 lead with 16:27 to go.
The Marlins steadied the ship and stayed within two possessions before finally getting back in front 69-67 with 8:13 showing. The teams then traded leads until VWC built a four-point edge with 1:48 remaining, with Khory Moore's steal and layup making it 83-79.
Despite playing without their starting point guard in Maleke Jones (Charles Town, W.V./Washington), who was injured in the first half, the young Royals didn't fold. Harris-Winn made a pair of free throws and Christian Hansen (Manassas Park, Va./Osbourn Park) tipped in a missed shot to tie it at 83-83 with 31.5 remaining. Khalil Davis (Harrisonburg, Va./Spotswood) forced a steal on the inbounds and Jerome Jones (Charles Town, W.V./Washington) nailed a three pointer with 20.4 left to vault EMU in front, 86-83.
Moore made a pair of tosses to get the visitors back within one, and Harris-Winn missed both of his free throws with 12.7 remaining to leave the door open. Moore drove down the left side of the lane, but lost the handle on the ball. Kaelin Poe was in the right place at the right time to find the loose ball and was fouled in the lane with 1.9 on the clock. VWC's big man made the first free throw to tie the score at 86-86, but his second attempt skimmed off the right, sending the game in extra time.
The Marlins scored first in overtime, but RaShawn Latimer (Warrenton, Va./Kettle Run) popped in a three pointer to swing EMU in front, 92-90, at the 2:30 mark. Poe tied it again with 1:19 to go and Harris-Winn made a single free throw after an offensive rebound to keep EMU in front, 93-92.
Moore nailed a huge triple for VWC to put them up by two points, and Harris-Winn again made a single free throw with 12.8 go, leaving the Marlins ahead 95-94. Tim Jones was fouled with 9.0 to go, and the guard made just his first free throw to leave it a two-point game.
The Royals elected to go inside with Harris-Winn driving in from the right side. He wrapped around under the hoop but couldn't get a contested layup to go through as time expired.
Both teams shot well (49% to 46% in favor of VWC), including 50% or better for each from three point range. Oddly, both struggled from the free throw line. The Marlins were 14-25 while EMU finished 18-27.
Harris-Winn notched a career high 24 for the Royals, adding 10 rebounds and four assists. Latimer also charted a career best with 19 points. Jerome Jones shot 5-for-8 from outside and added 17 counters. Sammy Thomas (Owings, Md./Northern) scored 10 and Hansen added seven points and six rebounds.
Moore and Jones did most of the damage for the Marlins, with each scoring 30 points. The backcourt duo combined to shoot 20-for-33 from the floor, including 11-for-18 from three point range. Poe had a critical 14 points and 11 rebounds.