EMU men nip Randolph, 74-71
In ironic fashion, free throws made the difference for the Royals. After 39 minutes loaded with unbalanced free throw attempts, Eastern Mennonite sealed a 74-71 win over Randolph College by going 8-for-8 from the line over the final 37 seconds.
The Runnin Royals had worked out to a 54-43 lead with 10:34 play, but visiting Randolph proved its spunkiness by clawing back in. The WildCats slowly chipped into the lead, and finally got within one at 66-65 with 49 seconds to go.
Then the free throw battle began. The two teams went back-and-forth, with EMU hitting a pair of free throws and Randolph getting a bucket. Until the final minute, the WildCats had a 39-to-13 edge in free throw attempts, but the Royals stepped up when it mattered.
Andrew Thorne (Front Royal, VA/Skyline) nailed a pair with 37 seconds to go, and sophomore R.J. Sims (Fort Washington, MD/Friendly) proved the perfect man to shoot the rest of the way, calmly hitting the men’s final six charities, including two with three seconds to go to put the lead back at three. Randell Smith (Woodbridge, VA/Garfield) then stole a long inbounds pass from Randolph, sealing the final 74-71 decision.
The game was full of big swings and fouls, as each team had a pair of starters foul out. Eastern Mennonite built its lead to 24-15 in the first half, before the WildCats closed the period on a 20-4 run to lead 35-28 at the break.
Owen Longacre (Telford, PA/Christopher Dock) canned a couple of threes and scored EMU’s first seven of the second half, as the Royals came marching back. Longacre got inside for a bucket to cap the comeback, putting the men back in front 41-40. The 26-8 surge ended with the 54-43 lead midway in the second.
Coach Kirby Dean was happy to see his team get a win in a tight game.
“With the way our season has gone, it’s just nice to win a close one,” said Dean. “Our guys could just expect someone to hit a halfcourt shot, because we’ve had that. I think it’s important to get a close win and get some confidence going.”
Eastern Mennonite hit 17-of-19 free throws in the second half, finishing 17-21 in the game. Randolph was 33-39. The Royals made a difference by holding a 34-28 edge in rebounds, with 15 offensive boards. EMU also had a defensive presence inside, with five blocked shots.
It was another team effort for the men, who had five players score in double figures. Longacre finished with 15 points and was one of five Royals with five rebounds. Sims finished with 12 counters, including 6-for-6 free throws, and five boards.
Dajon Daniel (Fredericksburg, VA/Mountain View) had 13 and five boards as did David Falk (Madison, VA/Madison). Thorne came in with 11 and a team high four assists.
Colton Hunt (Whittier, NC/Smoky Mountain) led Randolph with 24 points. Dylan Shiflett (Virginia Beach, VA/Cape Henry) had 14 and nine rebounds off the bench.
EMU improves to 8-9 overall and 3-5 in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference. Next up is No. 2 Virginia Wesleyan. The Marlins, who lost Saturday to Guilford, are also at Bridgewater on Monday before hosting the Royals on Wednesday in Virginia Beach.