Messiah Holds Off Alvernia 57-54

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Reading, Pa. (Feb. 14, 2012) – Alvernia University (16-8, 7-6) nearly pulled off its second come-from-behind victory in as many games on Tuesday, but the potential game-tying 3 caromed off the rim leaving Messiah College (17-6, 11-2) with a 57-54 win in Commonwealth Conference men's basketball action at the Physical Education Center.

The Crusaders were down 14 points, 56-42 with 2:47 to play before mounting a comeback.  Senior center Cory Boone (Howard, Pa./Bald Eagle) scored on a jumper in the paint then Brian Nerney (Middletown, N.J./Red Bank Catholic) was fouled attempting a 3 and hit two free throws.  He followed that hitting a 3 then Lamont Clark (Parkesburg, Pa./Octorara) scored on a jumper with 24 seconds left to close the gap to five.

Over the final two and a half minutes Messiah missed a layup, had two turnovers, and missed the front end of each of the three 1-and-1 attempts.

Alvernia senior Stefan Thompson (Philadelphia, Pa./G.A.M.P.) was fouled trying to force up a 3 with seven seconds to go and hit all three of the free throws to pull Alvernia within two, 56-54.  Messiah freshman Zach Hoy missed the first free throw in the double bonus but hit the second for a three-point lead.

Alvernia pushed the ball down the floor and following a pump fake Thompson had a decent look from a bit beyond the top of the arc, but the tying attempt hit the left side of the rim and bounced away.

Messiah locked down the top seed in the conference tournament--which starts next Wednesday--and will host the fourth seed.  Widener, Lycoming, Alvernia, and Albright will vie for the remaining three spots.

The Crusaders had three players reach double figures.  Josh Vargas (Allentown, Pa./Faith Christian Academy) scored a dozen and Thompson and Nerney finished with 11 each.  Messiah got 13 apiece from David Fernandez and Brad Bolen.

Alvernia tore out of the gate scoring 11 of the first 14 and had a lead as high as nine points, 18-9 after a jumper from Vargas.  Messiah answered with a 15-4 run hitting three 3s from three different players and getting five from Fernandez to go up 26-22 with under a minute in the half.

Vargas had a pair of offensive tips before finally getting the ball to fall and Boone was whistled for a goaltend on a Fernandez layup at the horn. 

Messiah's second half lead hit eight points in the early going and grew as high as 18 point following a pair of Hoy free throws.

Alvernia closes the season at Lycoming on Saturday, and in the other game of consequence Albright will host Widener.

Messiah 57, Alvernia 54