By: Laura Chapman
Assistant Sports Information Director
email@example.com • juniatasports.net
SCRANTON, Pa. – In a rematch of the 2013 Landmark Conference Tournament semifinals, the Juniata College men's basketball team won a thrilling overtime game against The University of Scranton to improve to 2-0 in conference and 11-2 overall. Seniors Brian Scholly (State College, Pa./State College) and Kevin Stapleton (Indiana, Pa./Indiana) both finished with 16 points, with Scholly adding five rebounds and Stapleton grabbing six. Senior Lucas Mellott (Warfordsburg, Pa./Southern Fulton) added a double double to the game with a team-high 11 rebounds and 11 points.
"This game speaks to their toughness and how solid a team we our," said head coach Greg Curley. "I thought our bench really stepped up. That's the story of the game. When we needed guys they were ready to go. It was a complete team effort. I thought we made the plays when we needed to."
On two of Scranton's opening possessions, the Eagles defense was able to force the Royals down to just seconds on the shot clock. Stapleton made back-to-back layups for Juniata to put the Eagles up 6-5 in the first five minutes of action. Ten minutes into the game, sophomore Justin Fleming (Doswell, Va./Benedictine College Prep.) nailed two shots from the foul line to tie things up at 12-12. The guard finished the night with 10 points going 6-8 from the foul line in 24 minutes on the court. The Juniata bench tacked on 20 points over the course of the game, outscoring the Scranton bench by six.
"Justin just continues to get better," said Curley. "He has the ability and sometimes he just lacks the confidence. The minutes we were able to get him last weekend in the tournament were big. He just keeps getting better. He's a good team guy and he's tough. Justin has the ability to just keep going at it and that was reflected in the way he played. He'll make a mistake and he's one that doesn't carry it with him and just keeps fighting. As those guys improve, that second group, we'll improve as a team."
Answering a Royal three, senior Dimitri Ross (Petersburg, Va./Appomattox Regional Governor's School) stepped back and drained a trey for the 15-15 tie. In the final five and a half minutes of play, Scranton went on a 12-3 run to enter halftime up 34-24. Mellott showed aggressive play in the key tacking on four points, two rebounds, and an assist in the first half.
Out of the halftime break, senior Jeremy Hays (McMechen, W. Va./John Marshall) grabbed the rebound off his own missed layup and kicked it out to classmate Pat Cassidy (Hollidaysburg, Pa./Hollidaysburg) for the first two points of the final 20 minutes. On the other end, Mellott pulled down his third rebound followed by a layup from Stapleton, Hays then scored his first points of the game assisting on the next bucket by Mellott and in the first two minutes the Eagles outscored Scranton 8-2 cutting the Royals lead to four at 36-32.
With 16:26 on the clock, Scholly made a drive into the lane before pulling up for the jump shot to cut the lead to four at 40-36. Scranton made back-to-back field goals to stretch the lead back out to eight before Mellott converted a three point play followed by a trey from Scholly to make the score 45-42 Scranton.
Fleming continued his strong shooting from the foul line, draining two, to pull Juniata to within one at 45-44. Out of a time out, sophomore Kyle Koehler (Chester Spring, Pa./Devon Prep.) sunk a long free from beyond the NBA arc to give the Eagles their first lead since the beginning of the game at 47-45. At the ten-minute mark, Curley tied his first time out of the game with the game knotted at 49-49.
First year Nate Ogle (Falls Church, Va./George Mason) helped Juniata out from the foul line, making two out of the timeout for another Juniata lead at 51-49. With five minutes to play the game, the Royals tied things up at 57-57 with both teams in the bonus on the foul line. With two minutes left Scranton held a one-point lead at 63-62 when Cassidy made a steal to give Juniata possession with 1:41 on the clock. Hays hit two foul shots for the 64-63 lead before a Scranton trey gave the Royals the two-point lead at 66-64 with 53 seconds on the clock. Hays drove to the baseline and put up the left-handed layup to tie the game at 66 all with 41 seconds left.
Stapleton made a tremendous block on Scranton's final possession of regulation and Juniata couldn't make the last possession count, sending the game to overtime. In the first 90 seconds of the overtime period, the Eagles jumped up four at 70-66. With two minutes left in the overtime, Juniata improved its lead to seven at 75-68. Under a minute remaining, Scholly hit his second free throw of the night for the 77-72 lead. With 19 seconds left on the clock the Royals tied the game one more time at 79-79.
With 2.6 seconds left, Hays drove for the layup, missed the shot, but was fouled on the play. The guard made his first free throw for the 80-79 lead, but missed his second. The rebound was brought down by Scranton, but the half court heave was no good and Juniata pulled out the 10-point halftime comeback.
The Eagles will return home Wednesday, Jan. 15 at 7 p.m., in a rematch of the 2013 Landmark Championship game.
"Our guys will be excited [for the game], but no more than we always are to play Catholic," said Curley. "We're excited for the challenge to see what we can do. They're a very good. That's why we do this."
Follow Your Eagles! Stay up-to-date on your Juniata College Eagles by following us on twitter (@JuniataEagles) and on Facebook (Juniata Eagles).