Men lose 20-point lead, rebound for OT victory

Category:  Sports
Wednesday, December 5th, 2018 at 6:17 PM

Just like he had practiced so many times at home in McComb Fieldhouse, DeAnthony Owens stepped to the 3-point line, squaring up to the defender in front of him.

“I was like, ‘If he doesn’t step up, I’m gonna shoot,’” Owens recalled after the game. “And he didn’t step up. I shot and it was a perfect rhythm for me.”

Owens sunk the three that put Edinboro back on top by 1 point in overtime, after they had fallen behind for the first time in the game. With just 33 seconds left, Bloomsburg sprinted down their home court but missed a 3-pointer and the second-chance layup. Junior transfer Steven Freeman, who had come into the game after leading-scorer Jaryn Simpson fouled out minutes earlier, secured the rebound and added a layup of his own to give the Fighting Scots a 3-point cushion with nine seconds left on the clock.

“I knew I had to come in and close the game out, so I just stayed solid and stayed strong, even though I haven’t really played too much,” Freeman said. “It was a great moment making the layup and sealing the game off.”

Bloomsburg’s Sam Saxton then missed a 3-point attempt in the final seconds to give the Edinboro men their first conference win of the season on Sunday. Both teams finished the weekend 1-1 in PSAC play and 3-3 overall.

The men’s team — like the women’s team in the game prior — ran into foul trouble early, as over half the team had at least two fouls, including all five of the team’s starting lineup. After scoring a career high of 34 points, Simpson had reached his foul limit in overtime with 1:30 left on the clock and the score sitting tied, 92-92. 

“I have a lot of confidence in Jelly (Simpson),” Owens said of the team’s ability to put points on the board when they have to lean heavily on their bench. “I feel like he has a lot of confidence in me and we all have confidence in our team, and we know that Jelly can hit shots, I can hit shots...[and] we have a lot of guys who can hit shots. So we just have to work hard and it’ll come to us.”

When Freeman came into the game for Simpson with 1:30 left on the clock, Simpson reportedly pulled his substitute to the side to give him words of encouragement.

“I was so proud of Jaryn. When he fouled out...he grabbed Steven as he was checking in and said, ‘I believe in you,’” Head Men’s Basketball Coach Pat Cleary told The Spectator. “I thought that that was a pivotal moment for us, because that was still a one possession game until Steven went and got that [layup], so it was a one-point game and Steven scrunched it up to three, so it was good.”

The Fighting Scots finished the first half leading the Huskies 47-27, but hit less than 38 percent of their field goals in the second half as Bloomsburg forced the overtime. They led by 8 points until as late as three minutes remaining in the second half before turning the ball over five times as Bloomsburg made up the difference.

Simpson was fouled in the backcourt with 14 seconds left, but both teams were in the double-bonus, so he made the most of his two free throws to boost Edinboro back up to a 4-point lead. Saxton nailed a 3-pointer to pull Bloomsburg to within 1, and a foul by Owens gave the Huskies the chance to go ahead with two free throws.

Ky Mauras, the Huskies’ leading scorer with 28 points when the game finally ended, could only convert one to tie the game, and neither team could score again before the end of regulation, setting up the dramatic finale.

“It was good,” Freeman said. “We needed this win because last night was a pretty hard loss, but it’s a good bounce back. It gives us some good momentum to move forward with.”

The men were in West Chester the night before, suffering their first conference loss by way of a 51-point trouncing at the hands of the Golden Rams.

West Chester opened scoring in the first half of this game with 2 points from the line. Owens was the first to score for ‘Boro, scoring a total of 5 points in the first two minutes of the game.

Sophomore Alex Jay sunk a 3-pointer with 9:28 left on the clock for the half, but West Chester had the 29-8 lead. 

The Golden Rams led 54-17 heading into the second half. 

In the second half, the Golden Rams again opened scoring and continued to build their lead until Jay put up a jumper, bringing the score to 60-19.

Simpson and Jay exchanged points to build Edinboro’s total to 26 before senior Trey Staunch added 2 of his own, yet still only cutting the West Chester lead to 37. Jake Benhart stood at the line with 10:25 left on the clock for three free throws, hitting all three. Simpson finished Edinboro’s scoring with the final 6 points while West Chester added another 21 to bring the final score to 88-37.

Overall, Simpson led in points for the Fighting Scots with a total of 12, Owens had a total of 8 points, and Jay added 7. Jay also led in rebounds with 7, while senior Jack Frank and freshman Turner Kurt each had 5.

“I’ve just got to make the best out there out of any chance I get,” Jay said of his increased presence on the court this season. “Just carry over what I learned last year into this year and do more for the team.”

Owens led in 3-pointers with a total of two and Simpson led in free throws, shooting 4-for-4.

“West Chester came out ready to play and they came out burning full-throttle, and I think the score proved that,” explained Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach Chivas Whipple after the game. 

Whipple said the team could learn from the defeat and that he believed the team would be able to rebound from it rather than languish over it.

“This is basketball. This is a sport. We’ve got...23 games left,” Whipple said. “I mean, you can’t do it all in one. You’ve got to move forward and press on.”

The men will continue their season at home on Saturday at 3 p.m. when they host East Stroudsburg. The Warriors ended Edinboro’s season last year in the semifinals of the PSAC tournament.

“I’m just glad they’re coming to our place because our last trip there was a disaster,” Cleary joked, referring to an infamous winter trip in which the team slept on the conference room floor of a hotel.

Christopher Rosato Jr. and Madi Gross can be reached at sports.spectator@gmail.com.

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