HARRISONBURG, VA --- Senior Travis Clower (Romney, W.V./Hampshire) calmly took the time to get his taller defender in the air with a pump fake, and then launched a three from the left wing, hitting nothing but the bottom of the net as time expired as EMU forced overtime against nationally ranked Lynchburg.
The spot-on three pointer capped a huge 14-5 run over the final 3:41 of regulation, as the EMU's basketball men erased a nine-point deficit and earned extra time with a 63-63 score.
In the end, however, the No. 17 Hornets (17-1/8-1 ODAC) made the plays in overtime, sneaking out of Harrisonburg with a 78-66 decision.
Center Sammy Thomas (Owings, Md./Northern) started the Royals' critical run late in regulation with a big three-point play and put in seven points during the streak. His offensive putback with 22 seconds left got the men with two points before the wild final seconds. The teams traded transition turnovers before Lynchburg's Reggie Davis made just one of his two free throws with 11.5 ticks left, leaving the door open for Clower's heroics.
But after EMU scored the first point in extra time on a Tariq Caldwell (Richmond, Va./Lee-Davis) free throw, Lynchburg made a quick 6-0 jab in less than a minute's time to take momentum with a 69-64 lead.
Michael Williams (Richmond, Va./Varina) cut the margin to three with a jumper at the 1:39 mark, but the Hornets scored the final nine points for the 78-66 decision. The 12-point margin was the largest of the game for either team.
After holding Lynchburg to 35% over the first 40 minutes, EMU's struggles on offense turned into bad situations on defense. The Royals shot just 1-for-6 from the floor in overtime, adding five turnovers. Lynchburg made all five of their shots and went 4-of-6 from the stripe in OT.
The final score was certainly not indicative of the overall game and was a letdown from the fantastic effort given by the Runnin Royals.
After a defensive first half, which Lynchburg led 28-25, Eastern Mennonite opened things up in the second, scoring the first nine points to jump in front 34-28. The Hornets caught fire from outside and retaliated with a 16-5 run, going back in front 44-39.
The visitors made another small surge to push open a 58-49 lead with 4:18 left, setting up the dramatic final minutes.
EMU finished with 19 offensive rebounds and a 49-46 rebounding advantage. The teams also combined for 42 turnovers and 54 points off turnovers.
Thomas was huge for the Royals racking up 17 points and 15 rebounds, including nine offensive boards. He also blocked a pair of shots. Clower finished with 14.
Caldwell chipped in 11 points and nine rebounds while Williams added 11 off the bench. Tim Jones (Forestville, Md./Central) led all players with six assists.
Austin Wrighten led Lynchburg with 20 points and seven rebounds. But the Royals limited Connor Schroeder to seven points, more than 10 before his scoring average. He did grab 12 rebounds.
Now 9-9 overall and 4-5 in the ODAC, Eastern Mennonite gets a small break with no mid-week game. The Royals return to action on Saturday, hosting Guilford College in a doubleheader with the EMU women. Play starts at 2:00pm in Yoder Arena, with the men taking the court at 4:30pm.