HUNTINGDON, PA- With key contributions off the bench and points off of turnovers, the Juniata men's basketball team held off Merchant Marine Academy 61-51 on Saturday at Memorial Gymnasium. The Eagles bench outscored the Mariners' 28-6 and scored 21 points off of 11 Mariner miscues while Merchant Marine only converted 10 points off of 11 Juniata turnovers.
The win evens the Eagles overall record at 8-8 and improves their conference mark to 2-5. The Mariners falls to 3-12 overall and 0-7 in the Landmark.
JC also had a strong presence in the paint with a 26-6 advantage. The Eagles recorded eight steals and 10 blocked shots, which was a season-high. "You put the ball inside, you are going to control the game and I think we did that consistently," said head coach Greg Curley afterwards.
Marcus Lee (Carrolltown, PA/Bishop Carroll) led the Eagles with 11 points. He also picked up four rebounds, three assists, two blocks, and one steal. Justin Fleming (Richmond, VA/Benedictine College Prep.) added 10 points, four rebounds, and two steals.
Kyle Koehler (Chester Springs, PA/Devon Prep) scored six points, pulled down seven rebounds, dished out two assists, came away with three steals, and blocked a season-high five shots. Seth Brewer (Lancaster, PA/Manheim Township) contributed nine points while Dennis Fisher (Bellefonte, PA/Bald Eagle Area) added eight points.
It was the Mariners who had the early momentum as they scored the game's first five points to lead 5-0. The Eagles got on the board on a trey from Fleming at 16:57 before Merchant Marine answered with a three-point shot of their own to go back up by five, 8-3, at 16:12.
A 12-4 run by the Eagles that covered just over five minutes of game time gave Juniata a 15-12 lead with 10:41 showing on the game clock. The JC advantage expanded to six points twice with the last time coming with 2:49 remaining in the half. A layup from USMMA's Kijona Henley and a three-point shot from Matt Miller cut the Eagle lead down to one as Juniata clung to a one-point lead at halftime.
Juniata went back up by six on a layup from Fleming at the 15:32 mark of the second half. The Mariners again cut the deficit to one at 13:36. A 16-5 spurt by Juniata was the turning point in the contest as the Eagles took their biggest lead of the game, 52-40, with 4:44 remaining to play.
The Mariners would get as close as eight points, 58-50, with 1:13 remaining to play in the game. The Eagles were too much in the end as they outscored Merchant Marine 18-2 in the paint and 17-0 in bench points. "I thought the zone down the stretch in the last 12 minutes really helped up and we did a really good job identifying their shooters," noted Curley.
As for his team's defensive effort, Curley said "Anytime you hold a team to 51 points and 35% shooting from the field, that's a pretty good night. Hopefully we can get organized here down the stretch and try to get some more wins out."
Juniata will travel to the nation's capital on Tuesday to face the top team in the Landmark in Catholic at 7 p.m. The Cardinals are 13-3 overall and 7-0 in conference play. "Going down to Catholic, who is as good as a team as I've seen, I want us to go down there with some energy and enthusiasm and if we can do that and get something out of that trip, then hopefully it sets us up to make a run of our own down the stretch," said Curley.