Men’s Basketball: ESU Opening Home Games Result in 1-1 Split

Photo Credit: (ESU Warriors)

Mehki Williams

Sports Editor

The Warriors have found their identity after starting the season scorching hot as one of the best teams in the PSAC. ESU defeated Lincoln, Elizabeth City State, Molloy, D’Youville and Mercyhurst for an impressive 5-0 start to the season.

As part of their four-game road trip, the Warriors went 2-0 at the Harbor of Hospitality Classic in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. ESU Men’s Basketball hosted Mercyhurst on Friday and Gannon on Saturday at Kohler Fieldhouse.

From the opening tip-off where ESU squared off with Mercyhurst, it was evident that both teams were ready to compete for forty-eight minutes. Mercyhurst came into Friday’s game with a 3-4 record seeking a win to become even. The Warriors roared to a fiery start, claiming a 23-14 lead with 3:57 remaining in the first half. Neither team was able to hold a double-digit lead in the ball game.

ESU found themselves battling an experienced team the entire night trading shots while making crucial plays on the defensive end. The second half of the game was a tight battle where both teams never held a lead larger than seven points. Mercyhurst hit back-to-back 3-pointers to cut the ESU lead to one at 50-49 with just over five minutes remaining.

With under a minute left to play in this thriller, Mercyhurst jumped to a 61-58 lead after a jumper drilled by Sean Fullerton. The Warriors struck back with a clutch shot of their own as McGlone’s game-tying 3-pointer electrified the crowd.

Mercyhurst continued to fight back. Plantius finished with a tough layup with 31 seconds left to give the Lakers a two-point lead. Down by two, Lakeem McAliely drove downhill on the basehill and soared for a layup of his own to tie the contest at 63-63. Christian Gamble of Mercyhurst hit one of two free throws after being fouled with 12 seconds remaining in the game to lead 64-63.

An error by Mercyhurst led to Nasir Griffin heading to the free-throw line with one second to go down by one. These next two shots would be the most crucial shots of the game as Griffin holds the fate of the Warriors’ only chance to win the battle or compete in overtime. Suddenly, the crowd fell silent as Griffin lined up for his free throws, nervously knowing this could be the end of the game.

Griffin hit both free throws to secure a 65-64 victory for the Warriors.

In Saturday’s match, the ESU Men’s Basketball Team faced another extremely competitive team, Gannon, fresh off a huge win on Friday night.

Gannon (7-0) sits at an undefeated record, making this a big test of where the Warriors stand against a top team. The Golden Knights began the contest unconscious, drilling a pair of three-pointers to take a 21-10 lead in the first half.

ESU did their best to cut the lead with big shots from McGlone, Griffin, and McAliley. The rest of the first half was dominated by Gannon. The Warriors had no answer to their shot-making and scoring from outside the perimeter. Gannon shot 64% from the floor in the first half, converting 20-31 FG attempts.

In the second half, the Golden Knights picked right where they left off in the first half. Gannon led by as many as 26 points, extending their lead to 96-70, where the game felt out of reach for the Warriors.

During the closing minutes, the Warriors kept battling despite being down. They capped off a 15-4 run in the last five minutes of the game. Their late-game efforts weren’t enough to overcome the deficit. Gannon remained undefeated with a final score of 110-96.

It’s now on to Holy Family Sunday, December 10, for the Warriors. The matchup will be played at Kohler Fieldhouse at 3:00 p.m.