EMU blows big lead in 81-79 loss to Roanoke

The Eastern Mennonite men’s basketball team suffered a gut-wrenching loss Saturday night in Yoder Arena, blowing a 12-point second half lead and a late game-tying shot to take an 81-79 loss to Roanoke.

The Runnin Royals had double digits leads in each half, including a 48-39 advantage at the break.  But a second half run by the Maroons made the game interesting in a hurry.

With a 58-47 lead and 14:26 to go, EMU suddenly went into a funk.  Over the next 6:13, Roanoke picked up steam and exploded to the final points of a 20-3 run, taking their biggest lead of the game at 67-61.

Adam Burroughs (Roanoke, VA/Northside) scored four straight points to trigger the men’s comeback, and then scored his eighth point of a 12-4 surge to get EMU back in front, 73-71, with 3:33 to go.

After a Roanoke bucket, Andrew Thorne (Front Royal, VA/Skyline) put in two straight shots, both with assists from R.J. Sims (Fort Washington, MD/Friendly).  The second was a thunderous dunk in transition, putting the lead at 77-73 with 2:11 left.

Then the Maroons went to work.  Junior Kwasi Amponsah (Woodbridge, VA/Garfield) scored six straight points to give the visitors a 79-77 edge with 28 seconds remaining.  Owen Longacre (Telford, PA/Christopher Dock), who had a career night, drove to the hoop and was fouled with 20 seconds to go.  But EMU’s big man missed both free throws after making his previous four attempts on the night.

Logan Singleton (Roanoke, VA/Hidden Valley) grabbed the board for RC, and Sims quickly fouled him.  Singleton missed the front end of a one-and-one and the Royals rushed up the court.  Burroughs drove down the lane and found Sims for a weak side layup, knotting the score at 79-79 with eight ticks to go and finally getting the home crowd on their feet.

Roanoke called a timeout to set up their final play, and Amponsah got the inbounds and dribbled up the right side.  As Amponsah was swarmed by EMU defenders, he found Singleton open under the hoop.  The senior’s layup glanced high off the glass and perilously bounced on the back and front of the rim before falling through with two seconds left.  The Royals’ desperation heave was no good, as the Maroons escaped with the 81-79 decision.

Coach Kirby Dean couldn’t believe his team lost on another late shot, but also knew they needed to play better defense.

“We might be the most snake-bitten team in America,” Dean said.  “We’ve lost three games on last-second shots.  But we’ve got to make stops.  We had a four-point lead with two minutes to go and at some point we just have to make a play and make a stop.”

Eastern Mennonite had a 44-40 edge on the boards, including 18 on the offensive end.  But the men hurt themselves by missing layups and free throws.  The Royals shot 27-66 from the floor for 41% and were only 19-36 from the line for 53%.  Roanoke came in at 49% from the floor and 74% from the free throw line.

Thorne tied for the game high with 18 points.  He also had nine rebounds, including five offensive.  Longacre charted his second double double with a career high 14 rebounds and 13 points.

Burroughs hit three triples and had a career best 17 points and four assists.  Sims finished with 11 points and four assists.  James Williams (Capitol Heights, MD/Archbishop Carroll) added nine off the bench.

Zach Barrett (Roanoke, VA/Hidden Valley) had 12 points in the first half and led Roanoke with 18.  Singleton finished with 14 points and 11 boards.  Amponsah and Clay Lacy (Roanoke, VA/Cave Spring) each had 14 as well.

The tough loss drops EMU to 8-11 overall and 3-7 in the ODAC.  The Royals step back into Yoder Arena for their next game, hosting Lynchburg College Wednesday night.

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