BY RONALD HANAKI
SC Staff Writer
In a tightly contested game that went down to the wire, ESU’s men’s basketball team suffered its first loss of the season as they fell 82-80 to Lock Haven University’s Bald Eagles in front of a raucous crowd at Thomas Fieldhouse on Thursday night, February 6.
The game was originally scheduled for Wednesday, February 5, but it was postponed by one day because of the snow.
Coming into this game, the Warriors were undefeated at 20-0 and ranked #3 in NCAA Division II.
The Warriors were led by Whis Grant, who did all he could in scoring 23 points in a losing effort.
Warriors guard Jamal Nwaniemeka and forward Rasheed Moore both added 19 points each, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the high-flying Bald Eagles on a cold mid-winter night in Lock Haven.
In a battle of great scorers, Lock Haven University guard Wali Hepburn outdueled Grant by scoring 27 points, including the game-winning shot to beat the Warriors.
Following a Lock Haven timeout with 27.3 seconds left and the score tied at 80-80, LHU’s Hepburn took the ball and drove to the basket and scored with 9.2 seconds left to put the Bald Eagles up, 82-80.
On the ensuing possession, ESU guard Matt Tobin had his shot blocked by LHU forward Kasheef Festus with 3.8 seconds left, but the Warriors still retained possession.
Tobin tried to inbound the ball, but he couldn’t find anyone so he called a timeout.
This time, Tobin was able to find Grant, who took a potential game-winning 3-point shot from the baseline that got stuck between the basket and the backboard with 1.0 second left.
ESU still kept possession, but Grant missed a game-tying baseline jumper that would have sent the game into overtime.
The Warriors and Bald Eagles were locked up in a tight one early in the first half until Lock Haven took the lead, 31-24.
ESU overcame Lock Haven’s early 7-point lead to tie the game at 33-33, but Lock Haven surged ahead to lead the game 40-38 at halftime.
ESU was first out of the locker room following halftime and came back to tie the game, 57-57, with 11:58 left.
The game would ebb and flow until Whis Grant’s 3-point shot powered ESU to a 7-point lead at 73-66.
Lock Haven would come right back and score the next 8 points to claim its own lead, 74-73.
A jumper by ESU’s Will Brown and a 3-pointer by Jamal Nwaniemeka let ESU re-take the lead, 78-74, with 3 minutes to go.
Not to be outdone, a jumper by LHU’s Brahieme Jackson and two free throws by Wali Hepburn tied the game again at 78-78 with 2:13 left in the game.
This set the stage for the final sequence of events that would determine the outcome of the game.
Whis Grant would miss his layup, but he got his own rebound. ESU would call timeout with 1:48 left in the game.
After the timeout, Grant made an easy jumper to put ESU in the lead 80-78 with 1:30 left.
On the ensuing possession, Lock Haven’s Bootsie Walker recovered teammate Brahieme Jackson 0’s missed layup to tie the game at 80-80.
A Brahieme Jackson foul sent ESU’s Rasheed Moore to the free throw line, but Moore missed both his free throws.The game was still tied at 80-80.
With 27.3 seconds left in the game and having possession, Lock Haven called timeout to draw up its final scoring play.
After inbounding the ball, Lock Haven’s Hepburn drove to the basket and hit the game-winning jumper with less than 10 seconds left in the game to shock previously undefeated ESU and blow the lid off Thomas Fieldhouse.
Lock Haven University fans would storm the court in celebration after the game.With the loss, ESU fell to 20-1 overall and 10-1 in PSAC conference play.
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