By: Laura Chapman
Assistant Sports Information Director
firstname.lastname@example.org • juniatasports.net
SELINSGROVE, Pa. – A hard fought battle didn't go the way of the Juniata College men's basketball team as the Eagles fell 59-58 on a last second three point shot at Susquehanna University. In a game with 23 lead changes and 12 ties, senior Lucas Mellott (Warfordsburg, Pa./Southern Fulton) led Juniata with 13 points and a team-high seven rebounds.
"I couldn't be prouder of this group of guys," said head coach Greg Curley. "I thought we did everything we possibly could to win the game. We just didn't get the breaks. I couldn't be prouder of my seniors, I couldn't be prouder of our bench – I thought we got contributions from everybody. Sometimes you just have to get the breaks. You won't find a coach more proud of his team. I thought they represented our program and Juniata very well today."
Straight from the tipoff, the Juniata (14-10, 5-8 Landmark) hustle helped extend a number of plays and kept the two teams in an eight-eight tie with five minutes of action gone. The Crusaders grabbed a 13-11 lead with 12-minutes left on the clock before the Eagles responded with a trey at the top of the arc from sophomore Justin Fleming (Doswell, Va./Benedictine College Prep).
At the nine minute mark, Juniata made a big defensive stop, followed by an offensive rebound to extend the play under the opposite hoop, before senior Kevin Stapleton (Indiana, Pa./Indiana) pulled up for a long three to put the Eagles on top 18-17. The guard dropped 11 points on the night, hauled in six rebounds, and added on three assists.
Out of a Susquehanna timeout, senior Dimitri Ross (Petersburg, Va./Appomattox Regional Governor's School) put up a three for yet another lead change and the 22-19 advantage. Ross added five points on the night helping the Juniata bench outperform the Crusaders reserves to the tune of 22-4. A great defensive play from freshman Dennis Fisher (Bellefonte, Pa./Bald Eagle Area) stopped a Crusaders' fast break and Juniata continued to pour on the points, carrying a 31-26 lead into halftime.
Three minutes out of the halftime break, Susquehanna tied things up at 33 all. Mellott tied the game again, at 37-37, on a reverse pivot layup inside. Fleming tied the game two minutes later at 40 all on a foul shot. The guard went 4-6 from the extra point line and totaled nine points on the night. The Crusaders put in back-to-back buckets for the five-point lead at 45-40 with 9:30 on the clock.
Senior Jeremy Hays (McMechen, W. Va./John Marshall) nailed two shots from the free throw line to pull Juniata within three at 49-46. The Eagles shot 66.7% from the foul line and 38% from the floor. Juniata went on a 7-0 run and forced a Susquehanna timeout, earning a 51-49 advantage with five minutes left to play.
The back-and-forth of the opening minutes continued again in the final four minutes of action. Susquehanna grabbed the lead back at 56-53 with 3:10 to play. A trey from Stapleton tied the game yet again, at 56-56, with 1:45 on the clock.
With less than 30 seconds on the game clock, Fleming drove inside for the go-ahead layup, but was fouled under the net. He nailed both of his shots to give the Eagles the 58-56 lead. On the last play, the Crusaders kicked the ball out to the top of the key and tossed up a prayer from behind the arc that sunk in at the buzzer for the 59-58 win.
Juniata will close out the 2013-14 regular season on the road this Saturday against Drew University.
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