Dramatic EMU rally forces OT, but Royals fall in ODAC quarters

EMU made a pair of game-tying three pointers in the final 10 seconds of regulation, but it wasn’t enough as the Runnin Royals bowed out of the ODAC Tournament in overtime Friday night, falling 99-91 to Randolph-Macon.

The men nearly pulled an upset in the two/seven game of the quarterfinals, but lost to the second-seeded Yellow Jackets for the third time this year.  The two regular season meetings were each decided by buzzer-beating threes.

This time it was Eastern Mennonite with the late heroics, as Dajon Daniel (Fredericksburg, VA/Mountain View) drilled a three pointer at the buzzer of regulation.  But the Royals ran out of magic (and players) in extra time.  It was also the third straight year that R-MC knocked the men out of the ODAC Tournament.

Riding a three-game winning streak, including Tuesday’s ODAC First Round win over Bridgewater, the Runnin Royals showed they came to play, jumping to a 9-2 lead early in the game.  But the Yellow Jackets answered with 11 in row and took a double-digit lead into halftime, 40-27.

The Royals showed their fight right away in the second, forcing three straight RMC turnovers and opening on an 8-0 run to cut the lead to five, 40-35.  Randolph-Macon regrouped with seven straight to put the lead back in double figures, but the men weren’t done.

Over a span of 4:19, the Runnin Royals unleashed a 20-3 streak, tying the game at 50-50 on two Owen Longacre (Telford, PA/Christopher Dock) free throws and going up by five on a Daniel three-point play with 12:34 to go.

The Yellow Jackets answered with a 22-7 run, turning the tables to a 10-point cushion.

But EMU had another comeback up their sleeves.  Longacre hit a triple with 2:20 to play, cutting the lead to 76-73.  Andrew Thorne (Front Royal, VA/Skyline) nailed a three ball with 23.9 seconds left to get within two, 78-76.  After two RMC free throws, Thorne tipped in an R.J. Sims (Fort Washington, MD/Friendly) miss.

Lamar Giggetts (Fredericksburg, VA/Courtland) made just one of two free throws for the Yellow Jackets with 14.3 left, leaving the door open.  Daniel came up the floor and handed the ball off to Adam Burroughs (Roanoke, VA/Northside), setting a screen for him.  Burroughs curled off the screen and buried a three pointer from the right wing, deadlocking the score at 81-81 with 9.1 left, and sending the vocal EMU crowd into a delirium.

But the Yellow Jackets again had an answer, streaking down the floor and attacking the basket.  Trent Walker (Charlotte, NC/Charlotte Christian) hit the layup and drew a foul, converting a three point play with five seconds left.  That’s when Daniel came down the floor and ran the same play with Burroughs, only keeping it and launching his own three which hit both interior sides of the rim before falling through as the buzzer sounded.

Randolph-Macon got the early jump in overtime, scoring the first four before Corey Sheppard (Richmond, VA/Open) hit a pair of free throws.  But the key moment happened when Thorne picked up his fifth foul with 2:51 left.  Longacre had fouled out late in regulation, so the Royals were robbed of two of their top three scorers.

RMC put the lead back up to six, with a Sims layup getting the men with 93-89 with 1:16 remaining in OT.   The Yellow Jackets almost left the door open again by missing a dunk on their next possession, but an offensive rebound and free throws sealed the decision.

Daniel also fouled out in OT, leaving EMU without three starters and backup center David Falk (Madison, VA/Madison), who broke his nose in the second half.  The Royals shot just 2-for-13 in the extra session.

Coach Kirby Dean was proud of his team’s effort, but also conceded that the great effort still resulted in a season-ending loss.

“It’s hard to find the positives in a loss when your season is over,” Dean said.  “We just couldn’t get the shots or rebounds we needed in overtime.”

Thorne finished with a double double, hitting a game high 26 points with 10 rebounds.  He also led all players with five assists and added three steals.

Daniel hit three long balls and came in with 18 counters.  Longacre didn’t miss a shot (3-3 FG, 1-1 3-FG, 7-7 FTs) and notched 14 points.  But all three were fouled out by the end of the game.

“When Andrew fouled out and we were playing with five guards,” explained Dean.  “So we put on the pressure and dared them to throw over top of us.  Their big guy missed a dunk, but we’ve got to get that rebound.”

Sims added 14 points and game best five steals.  Falk added seven points and six rebounds before breaking his nose midway through the second.

Andre Simon (Newport News, VA/Menchville) had 20 points and 15 rebounds off the bench for Randolph-Macon.  Giggetts finished with 20 and seven boards.  Calvin Croskey (Manassas, VA/Osbourn Park) added 17.

The Yellow Jackets shot 52% in the game, while EMU only made 40%.  The Runnin Royals were 7-for27 from long range while holding RMC to 2-for-11.  Randolph-Macon had a sizeable edge at the free throw line, making 33-of-49 attempts compared to 24-for-32 for EMU.

Although RMC only had one more offensive rebound than Eastern Mennonite (12-11), each of them seemed to come at key times.  The Royals forced 25 turnovers while committing 20.

The loss ends the year for the young Runnin Royals, who will not graduate any of their three upperclassmen.  They close at 12-15 including 6-10 in the ODAC during the season.

“Now we’ll see what work these guys put in during the offseason,” said Dean.  “We can’t just be happy we won 12 games with a young team and expect to win more next year.  These guys each know what they have to do to improve.”


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