By: Laura Chapman
Assistant Sports Information Director
firstname.lastname@example.org • juniatasports.net
HUNTINGDON, Pa. – The Juniata College men's basketball team closed out the 2014 Holiday Tournament with a title victory over Case Western Reserve University, 74-64. Senior Lucas Mellott (Warfordsburg, Pa./Southern Fulton) was named to the All-Tournament team, finishing the night with 15 points. Senior Jeremy Hays (McMechen W.Va./John Marshall) tied a career-high with 28 points and was named the 2014 Holiday Tournament MVP.
"That's a very good team we played," said head coach Greg Curley. "We want to try and go somewhere so we're going to take the win, learn from it, and get what we need to. Case Western is a very good team. I think we learned some things about ourselves. We've assured ourselves that we are good at the things we can do and we need to just keep working and getting better."
In the opening ten minutes the Eagles made a series of strong defensive stops and, with a three for senior Dimitri Ross (Petersburg, Va./Appomattox Regional Governor's School), Juniata stretched the lead out to five at 14-9. On back-to-back possessions the Spartans defense forced the Eagles to run the shot clock down almost completely before the hot hand of senior Brian Scholly (State College, Pa./State College) nailed a jumper and drained a trey for the 23-12 Juniata lead. Scholly came away with 14 points on the night and was 2-3 from behind the arc.
With five minutes to go in the first half, Juniata's advantage hovered around eight points as the Spartans tried to find a way to close the gap with perimeter shooting. Senior Kevin Stapleton (Indiana, Pa./Indiana) charged across the baseline for a layup and made the drive a three point play with a made free throw for the 36-24 Juniata lead with 2:30 remaining.
The Eagles entered halftime leading 41-28 with Scholly putting up 12 points and Hays and Mellott posting 11 and nine points respectively. Juniata shot 62% from the floor in the first half and 70% from the foul line. The Eagles were able to force Case Western into shooting just 44% from the floor.
"That's probably the most complete offensive team we've played in the half court," said Curley. "They're averaging 76 points a game and shooting almost 50% from the field and, from start to finish, we did a pretty good job of contesting them and containing their shooters and we did a nice just frustrating, and working against, their post guys."
In the opening of the second half, Juniata was able to use lane penetration by Hays and sophomore Justin Fleming (Doswell, Va./Benedictine College Prep.) to reach 54-41 with 12:10 on the clock. After the two teams traded missed opportunities, Stapleton stepped behind the arc and drained a trey followed by a Spartan three to set the score at 61-49 with just over seven minutes left to play. The Eagles shot 60% from behind the arc, grabbed seven steels as a team, and got 18 points of bench production in the game.
"I challenged the bench after the W&J game and I really thought those guys stepped up," said Curley. "That's what we need. For a while the first five were carrying us. I talked a lot about guys taking an equal share of responsibility and opportunity. We're playing 8, 9, even 10 guys and when you're out there there's no separation between what year you are or how many minutes you play. You have to go play."
Hays drained two shots from the foul line and sophomore Kyle Koehler (Chester Springs, Pa./Devon Prep.) grabbed a steal inside of five minutes for the 15-point Eagle lead. With two minutes to go the Spartans were able to cut the Juniata lead to 10, but the Eagles held on for the 74-64 win and the tournament crown.
Juniata hits the road to reopen the Landmark Conference season next Saturday at The University of Scranton. The Eagles return home Wednesday Jan. 15 at 7 p.m. for a rematch of the 2013 Landmark finals against Catholic University of America in Memorial Gym.
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