HUNTINGDON, Pa.- The Juniata men's basketball team lost a back and forth contest against University of Scranton, 64-59, in a game that featured 10 ties and 14 leads changes Saturday afternoon at Memorial Gymnasium.
The game started with the teams exchanging turnovers before the Royals struck first via a layup. After moving the ball around with not lot of time left on the shot clock, Paul Martello (York, Pa. / York Catholic) took a hard dribble to his right to create separation before he drilled a three from a step behind the three-point line. After a steal by Nicholas Albert (Herndon, Va. / Westfield High), Martello struck again with another deep three, his time off a pass from Brandon Martinazzi (Cresson, Pa. / Bishop Carroll). A Jake Holsopple (Duncansville, Pa. / Hollidaysburg) sweeping layup made it 8-6 Juniata in the first five minutes of the contest. Martinazzi drove from the right wing and scored to make it 10-6. The Eagles didn't score over the next two minutes until Andrew Bithell's (Saxton, Pa. / Tussey Mountain HS)hustle resulted in a tip in. A Cameron Keck (Waynesboro, Pa. / Waynesboro) short pullup along the left baseline made it 14-13. A Nate DaCanal (Johnsonburg, Pa. / Elk County Catholic) three from the left corner off a pass from Ethan Haupt (Duncansville, Pa. / Hollidaysburg) pushed the advantage to four.
With a little under nine minutes to go in the half, with Eagles up one, Martinazzi stole the ball and raced the other way. He drove hard to the hoop with a Royal tight on his hip and finished through contact. He converted the foul shot to make it 22-18 Juniata. A few minutes later, Albert turned defense to offense. He stole the ball and jetted up the court. He scored via a smooth lefty finger roll between two Scranton players, with the foul shot making it 29-22 Juniata. A few possessions later after a Royal three, Keck broke open underneath and Noah Neville (Westminster, Md. / North Carroll) fired the ball inside to him for a layup to make it 34-25. The Royals scored seven of the last nine points of the half in the final two minutes as Juniata led by four, 36-32.
Scranton opened the second half with a three and on the other end Caidon Owen (Glenelg, Md. / Glenelg Country School) swung the ball to Martinazzi who nailed a three to make it 39-35. A 6-0 spurt from Scranton put them ahead 41-39 before two foul shots from Owen tied the game. On the next offensive possession after strong JC defense forced a stop, Marcus Hall (York, Pa. / Trinity) caught the ball at the top of the key. He blew by his defender going to his right before laying the ball in with his left to make it 43-41. After two Royal free throws, Albert tossed it inside to Hall in the post and he scored again, this time off the glass.
Neither team scored over the next minute, with DaCanal drawing a charge that drew a roar from the crowd. With 10 and half minutes to go in the contest, Albert corralled an offensive rebound and found him in the corner. DaCanal drilled the three to make it 48-43. Scranton took the lead for a moment before two Martello foul shots and a difficult Martinazzi floater going to his left while falling away from the hoop gave the Blue and Gold a 52-49 edge with six and half minutes to go.
The Royals continued their march to the foul line as they kept answering each Eagle bucket from the charity stripe. A Martinazzi jumper made it 55-55 with four minutes and forty-two seconds to go. The Royals were awarded and made two foul shots. Martello drove to the hole and kept the Scranton big on his right shoulder while laying the ball in off the glass with his left hand. Another two Scranton foul shots gave them a two-point lead with two and half minutes to go in the contest. The Eagles turned the ball over on their next possession and called timeout.
The Eagles came out looking to trap, and managed to force the Royal point guard to pick up his dribble just over midcourt. He lobbed a pass that took a bounce before Bithell scooped it up and pushed it ahead to Martello who laid it in to knot things at 59-59 with just under two minutes to go.
JC forced the Royals to take a runner in heavy traffic and Albert snagged the rebound. Scranton forced an Eagle turnover and turned it into points at the other end as they led by two with fifty-five seconds to go. Martinazzi got a look a shot from the elbow but it rattled out. Bithell grabbed the ball in a crowd and was fouled with 31 seconds. His first attempt was just short and the Eagles couldn't grab the rebound on the second so they fouled. The Royals went three of four down the stretch to close out the win.
Juniata heled the Royals to 39.0% shooting from the field and 26.7% shooting from three. But the visitors did their damage from the foul line as they went 32 times and made 28 of them.
Juniata returns to action on the road at Elizabethtown, Wednesday at 7:00.