FREDERICKSBURG, VA --- The Runnin Royals started the year on the right foot, getting an impressive 95-93 win over Staten Island in overtime at the Hampton Inn South Tip-Off Tournament in Fredericksburg, Va. RJ Sims (Fort Washington, Md./Friendly) capped a furious comeback by nailing a three pointer at the buzzer of regulation, and the men did just enough in overtime to escape with the win.
Eastern Mennonite had their hands full in the game, breaking in four new starters after guard James Williams (Capitol Heights, Md./Archbishop Carroll) was injured in practice earlier in the week. The talented Dolphins won the CUNYAC last year to earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament, but had their own roster issues to open the new season.
The theme of adjustment abounded and, despite a game full of fouls and turnovers, the Runnin Royals crashed the offensive boards and jumped to a 10-2 lead. They led by as many as 13 in the first 20 minutes, only to see Staten Island get within seven at halftime, 40-33.
The men still led 66-53 with 9:48 to go before CSI mounted a comeback. The Dolphins held EMU scoreless over the next three minutes and put in 12 straight to slice the lead to one point. They took their first lead at the 4:56 mark, and then pushed it to 80-72 after two free throws with 53 seconds left, capping a 27-6 run.
That's when the Royals caught fire from outside. Sims canned a three, and after a CSI bucket, Ryan Yates (Alexandria, Va./T.C. Williams) nailed a triple to get within 82-78 with 22 seconds to go. Staten Island's Frankie Schettino made one of two free throws, and Sims bombed another three ball to get the men within a pair with 10 seconds left.
Schettino again made just one of two free throws with eight seconds left, setting up Sims' buzzer-beating triple to send it to OT locked at 84-84. Led by the senior's trio of three pointers, EMU outscored CSI 12-4 over the final 46 seconds of regulation.
Yates hit a longball for the first score of overtime. The Royals held the slight edge until Schettino buried three free throws to put the Dolphins up 93-92 with 1:20 left.
Chris Yoder (Lancaster, Pa./Hempfield) hit the first of two free throws to re-tie the game with 45 seconds to go, but David Falk's (Madison, Va./Madison) offensive rebound set up another free throw situation. Yates hit one of two, giving EMU a 94-93 edge. The Dolphins missed a jumper, and Sims made just one of two tosses with 17 seconds left to leave the lead at two, but Yates picked out a steal in the final second to seal the win.
The game featured a combined 62 turnovers, 58 fouls and four foul-outs. EMU was out-shot 49% to 43%, but made up the difference by going 12-of-29 from three point land for 41%, and grabbing 26 offensive rebounds for a 60-45 domination of the glass.
Yates finished with 24 points and five steals, both career highs. Sims was 5-for-7 from the outside and was good for 21 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals. The duo combined for 23 of EMU's final 27 points.
Falk had a career best 17 rebounds, including six off the offense glass, and blocked five shots, which was also a career high. Woody Furbush (Bridgeton, N.J./Salem) was perfect from the floor and chipped in 11 points and five rebounds off the bench, while Nic Sulc (Prince George, Va./Prince George) was good for seven points and five boards in just ten minutes.
Staten Island's Schettino led all scorers with 26 points.
Eastern Mennonite advances to the tournament's title game and will play Sunday afternoon against either Montclair State or host Mary Washington.