Men's Basketball News & Highlights
February 22, 2014
Eagles Complete Strong Finish with 78-70 Win
The Eagles (11-14, 5-9 Freedom) honored four seniors before the start of play. Manager Dom Buford joined Connor, Jimmie Willis, and Jordan Diggs at mid-court for a brief moment of recognition. The Eagles closed out the year with wins in four of their final five games. Eastern has been within a single possession in the final minutes of each of the team's five losses since an overtime loss at DeSales on January 25.
"We have really been focusing on just getting better," head coach Nate Stewart said of his team's progress down the stretch. "Our seniors have had a good sense of 'this is going to be it' and they have helped set a good tone."
Entering today, DeSales (16-9, 10-4 Freedom) had already clinched the top-seed in the upcoming Freedom Conference playoffs.
The game started with both teams working to their strengths and briefly holding leads. With 11 minutes to go in the first half, the Eagles grabbed a 19-18 lead on Connor's first 3-pointer of the game. Eastern built that lead to 10 points on a Willis 3-pointer with 3:23 on the clock and held a 36-31 lead at intermission.
Kyle Hash had nine points for the Bulldogs at the break to lead all scorers after 20 minutes. Connor, Garrison, and Shaquan Turk each had seven points and Willis has six. Austin Carroll had five assists and the Eagles shot 47 percent from the floor.
Eastern used pressure defense to push the lead to nine early in the second half, but DeSales was able to answer.
The Bulldogs closed the gap with a 12-2 run and grabbed a 51-50 lead on a Kyle Hash 3-pointer with 9:41 to go. Caleb Knudsen answered with a jumper before Mike Coleman scored four straight points to push the visitor's advantage to three points with just over eight minutes to play.
Connor answered again with his third 3-pointer of the game. The Bulldogs could be excused for leaving the senior guard open from the perimeter. Connor typically scores most of his points on back-door layups and put-back baskets. He had made 13 3-pointers in his four-year career entering action today. In his senior season, Connor shot 58 percent from the floor and only had one game where he missed more than two shots.
"Ben is such a team-first kid. He really set the tone with how hard he worked at the defensive end in the first half." coach Stewart added, "He just wants to see the team win. He is one of the toughest kids I've seen play. He doesn't miss a lot of shots because he does not take any bad shots." Connor made 3-of-4 from distance and converted both his attempts from inside the arc.
With the the game tied, the Eagles picked up a stop at the defensive end and pushed their advantage to 58-55 on a Garrison 3-pointer off a feed from Knudsen. The Eagles were able to hold the lead by making 20-of-22 free throws in the final six minutes of the game.
Turk joined Garrison and Connor in double figures with 14 points. The first-year standout guard finished the season averaging 12.2 points per game and finished in double-figures in 11-of his final 12 games. He shot 54 percent from the floor for the season.
Anthony Parenti added nine points, and Willis and Knudsen each added eight. Diggs finished with six points. He made both his free throw attempts in the contest to finish the season at 89 percent.
Eastern scored close to 78 points per game over the final nine games of the season.
Even with the loss of the three seniors, the strong close to the 2013-14 season has many looking forward to what the 2014-15 season will bring.
Updated: Tuesday, 25 February 2014