HUNTINGDON, Pa.- The Juniata men's basketball team edged Catholic, 77-70, in the Landmark Conference Championships semifinal at Memorial Gymnasium Wednesday evening in front of a raucous crowd.
Marcus Lee (Carrolltown, Pa./Bishop Carroll) had 23 points and seven rebounds while Seth Brewer (Lancaster, Pa./Manheim Township) had 15 points and three assists. Brandon Martinazzi (Cresson, Pa./Bishop Carroll) tallied 10 points and six assists, Damon Rickens (Altoona, Pa./Bishop Guilfoyle) amassed eight points and five rebounds and Wil Peralta (Hagerstown, Md./North Hagerstown) added six points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals. Paul Martello (York, Pa./York Catholic) chipped in with nine points, four assists and three steals off the bench.
Martinazzi found Lee for tough midrange jumper to open the scoring for the Eagles. Martinazzi drove and dished to Lee for a layup and then the junior guard found Brewer for three as JC led 7-4. After a pair of Cardinal free throws, Jake Holsopple (Hollidaysburg, Pa./Hollidaysburg) passed through traffic to a cutting Noah Neville (Westminster, Md./North Carroll). Lee drilled a three from the top of the key to make it 18-12 with over nine minutes to go.
Over the next minute the Cardinals narrowed the gap and took their first lead of the day at 19-18 on two free throws.
The teams traded the lead back and forth in the final minutes of the half, with Martello drilling a three off a pass from Martinazzi with just over two minutes left. Two Catholic layups in the final minute and half gave the Cardinals a 33-31 edge heading into the half.
Brewer scored the first JC bucket of the second half on a banked in triple off a pass from Lee. Brewer then found Rickens for a three from the left corner as JC retook the lead. Layups from Rickens and Lee pushed the Eagle lead to six at 41-35. A Martinazzi three from the right corner got the fans fired up and caused Catholic to call timeout as JC led 44-35 with 15 minutes to go.
Over the next several minutes the Eagles led 54-46 and started to pull away. A difficult three by Rickens from the right corner pushed the lead to 57-46. A Brewer triple followed by layups from Lee then Peralta made it 64-48 as the Memorial Gymnasium started rocking.
Peralta drove from the left wing and finished with his left hand to make it 70-57 with just under three minutes to go.
The Eagles made enough free throws down the stretch to ice the game, with Martello intercepting the final desperation inbounds pass.
Juniata will host the Landmark Conference Championship against Moravian, Saturday at 2:00 at Memorial Gymnasium.