Men's Basketball News & Highlights
February 07, 2013
Eagles Grab Overtime Win
The Cougars (11-11, 7-4) played the first 25 minutes of the game without point guard Matt Greene. Greene, who averages nearly 12 points and five assists an outing, made the trip, but was clearly under the weather. Without their floor general, the Cougars struggled to get shots up in the first half. The Cougars were 5-of-15 from the floor in the first 20 minutes.
The Eagles, meanwhile, ran methodical offense and grabbed 10 offensive rebounds. Even with over double the number of shot attempts, the Eagles still only led 26-21 at the break. The game was tied and the Cougars were holding for the last shot when Ben Connor stole possession back for the Eagles. Anthony Parenti went a little early but made a mid-range jumper to put the Eagles up 23-21.
Malcolm Garrison then stole the inbounds pass and rose up instantly for a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to send the Eagles to the locker room with the five point edge. Garrison scored eight of his team-high 14 points in the first half. Parenti made good use of his limited minutes in the first half to score seven points.
Anthony Sergio and Joe Busacca each had six for the Cougars.
The Eagles maintained their edge out of the break and led 36-30 with 12 minutes to play. Over the next four minutes, it seemed the entire game centered around Jimmie Willis. Eastern's junior forward had scored a basket off the bench in the first half. In the short stretch, Willis scored nine points grabbed a rebound and was called for three loose-ball fouls.
Willis started his improbable run with a wide-open look from the top of the key. He banked home his third 3-pointer of the year. On the next defensive possession, he was twice whistled for boxing out and attacking the defensive glass. That Misericordia possession ended when Connor took a charge.
Willis picked up his third foul in a minute fighting for an offensive rebound. The Eastern coaching staff elected to stay with Willis, and the gamble played dividends. His three-point play at the mid-point of the second half increased the Eastern lead to 42-30. The Cougars scored two straight hoops to pull within eight, but Willis again went to work on the glass. After Garrison's shot at the end of the shot clock landed well short, Willis grabbed the rebound and converted another three-point play. Willis, who has struggled from the line throughout the year, hit nothing but net on either one of his free throw chances.
Misericordia, who entered with a shot at a top-two seed in the playoffs, scored eight points in 90 seconds to pull with 46-42 with five minutes to play. The Eagles stabilized things to slow the Cougar run, but Misericordia, with Greene running the show, ground into the Eastern lead and tied the game at 50-50 on a Justin Grotevant layup with 50 seconds left.
Connor split a pair of free throws and Steve Ware converted a three-point play with 31 seconds left to give the Cougars their first lead since it was 4-2.
Out of a timeout, the Eagles looked inside to McGrath. The freshman forward went right at Ware and finished through the shot-blocker's contact to send the game to overtime.
McGrath set the tone for the extra frame when he hit a 15-footer from the wing as the shot-clock expired to put the Eagles up two. Grotevant tied the game on a clever interior pass from Ware. The Eagles hit three-of-four free throws before Busacca hit a three on a kick out pass from Grotevant to tie the game at 58-58.
On the ensuing possession, Grotevant would join Ware on the bench with five fouls after Conner went up strong with another offensive rebound effort. The junior forward made both his free throw attempts for a two-point lead. Eastern earned a stop at the other end and built the lead to four after Connor scored on yet another offensive rebound. The Eagles had an 8-1 advantage in rebounds in the extra period. Connor had three of them.
The Cougars still had a chance down three after Patrick Widdoes split a pair of free throws with 50 seconds to play, but Anthony Bertolino scored a twisting layup out of a spread set to put the Eagles up five. Bertolino, who was one for his last 18 shots heading into the final minute of overtime, came up with a big steal and layup to seal the game.
"Ben Connor's line only tells part of the story in that game," Head Coach Nate Stewart said after the game. "Seven points and eight rebounds isn't spectacular, but he got the three steals and probably got his hands on another five or six balls. Four points and three rebounds in overtime is pretty clutch."
Stewart also pointed to the play of McGrath who did not hesitate to take a big shot with the game on the line and Parenti.
"It was a really good team win," he concluded, "as a young team, we made some pretty big mistakes, but we also showed a lot in bouncing back and making plays. We grow up a little every day."
Despite a rough shooting night Garrison finished with a team-high 14 points for the Eagles. Willis was the only other Eastern player in double-figures. He had 11. McGrath and Parenti each had nine, and Dan Werth made 6-of-6 foul shots and finished with eight.
Grotevant had 17 points and nine rebounds to lead the Cougars. Ware finished with 11 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks, and a couple steals.
The win moves the Eagles into a tie for fifth in the Freedom Conference with King's. Eastern does not control its own destiny for the final playoff spot, but the Eagles can make things interesting with a win at Wilkes on Saturday. Wilkes lost eight straight league games to start the season but has won three straight.
DeSales and Delaware Valley have all but locked up the top two spots in the Freedom standings. Misericordia sits squarely in third and FDU-Florham is alone in fourth a half game ahead of Eastern and King's. FDU's three remaining games are against DeSales, Eastern and Delaware Valley.
Eastern plays at Wilkes on Saturday and will play its final home game of the year against FDU on Tuesday.
Updated: Friday, 08 February 2013