CRESSON, Pa.- Saturday afternoon's championship game of the Coaches Vs. Cancer Tournament pitted the Juniata men's basketball team against Bethany (W.V.) College. It was Eagle head coach Greg Curley against his former assistant and player Nick Hager. Hager's team ended out on top in the end as the Bison held off the Eagles 75-68.
The game was tied 4-4 early in the first half but Bethany would go on a 17-4 run that spanned nearly eight minutes of game time as the Bison led 21-8 with 9:27 remaining in the half. JC was able to cut back its deficit with a 15-5 run to cut the Bethany lead to 26-23 with 4:21 to play in the first. Juniata got it to two points, 31-29, following a pair of Marcus Lee (Carrolltown, Pa./Bishop Carroll) free throws with 55 seconds showing on the clock. The Bison responded with 26 seconds left as Chaice Truex made a three-point shot to give Bethany a 34-29 lead at the half.
In the second half, Brandon Martinazzi (Cresson, Pa./Bishop Carroll) drained a three-pointer two minutes in to get JC to within one point of tying the game up. It was a one-possession contest, 42-40, in Bethany's favor following two free throw shots from Dennis Fisher (Bellefonte, Pa./Bald Eagle Area) at 14:10. After a three-point jumper from Bethany's Zach Nahra, Damon Rickens (Altoona, Pa./Bishop Guilfoyle) swished two free throws to bring the score to 45-42. Antonio Rudolph's jump shot increased the Bison lead to 47-42 and started an 8-1 run to stake Bethany to a 53-43 advantage with 9:43 remaining in the game.
The Bethany lead stood at 60-51 with 7:31 left in the contest. Rickens drained two three pointers and Lee tacked on two free throws to narrow the JC deficit to four points, 63-59. With 4:08 to play, another Rickens' trey, this time with exactly two minutes remaining, brought the score to 68-66. Bethany was able to counter with a three of its own by Andrew Williams and its advantage was now 71-66 at 1:42. A Lee layup with 42 ticks on the clock got the Eagles to within five points of tying. After Juniata collected the rebound of a missed Calique Jones layup, a foul by Truex put Seth Brewer (Lancaster, Pa./Manheim Township) on the line with 13 seconds and an opportunity to make it a one-possession game. Brewer missed the first of a one-and-one and Bethany's Andrew Williams was fouled by Rickens on the rebound. Williams made both of his free throws to secure the win for the Bison.
Rickens picked up where he left off last night as he put down 22 points on 7-of-15 shooting and was 6-of-12 from beyond the three-point line. He grabbed nine rebounds, dished out one assist, and had one steal. Lee added 21 points and four rebounds.
The two teams were nearly identical in team stats. Bethany led in field goals as it made 27-of-62 (43.5%) with Juniata right behind at 23-of-56 (41.1%). Three-point field goals were also in Bethany's favor 43.8%-40%. The Eagles led in rebounds 35-34. The Bison had a 11-10 edge in points off turnovers and 12-11 in second chance points. Bethany received 22 points from its bench while JC was 0-for-4.
Juniata hosts its first game of the season this coming Tuesday night when it welcomes Washington and Jefferson to Memorial Gymnasium. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.