CENTER VALLEY, PA.- The Juniata men's basketball team returned to the hardwood on Thursday night after a nine-day break to play Alvernia in the Al Senavitis Memorial Tournament hosted by DeSales University. The Eagles recovered from a double-digit deficit in the first half to make it a one-possession contest in the second but the Crusaders proved to be too much as they won 66-57.
The Eagles and Crusaders were tied at 7-7 with 16:04 in the first half. Alvernia went on a 16-2 run to break the game open and lead 23-9 at 9:45. It would be 30-15 with 4:32 remaining in the half and JC went into the locker room trailing 33-19.
Juniata began the second half of play on a tear as it ripped off nine straight points to trim the Crusader lead to five points, 33-28, at the 17:01 mark. Alvernia was able to up its advantage to 40-30 at 15:42. A 9-1 Eagle run, however, got Juniata to within two points of tying the score, 41-39, with 12:06 to play.
After the Crusaders increased their lead to 46-39 with just under nine minutes remaining, a three-point shot from Trevor Clune (Meadville, Pa./Meadville Area) followed by the second of two free throws from Seth Brewer (Lancaster, Pa./Manheim Township) narrowed the Alvernia lead to 46-43.
Seven points from Brandon Martinazzi (Cresson, Pa./Bishop Carroll) in just over two minutes of game time got JC to 57-52 with 2:57 left. The two teams exchanged baskets in 1:18 of game time with Damon Rickens' (Altoona, Pa./Bishop Guilfoyle) three-pointer with 57 seconds left giving the Eagles a chance to still take the game at 61-57. The Crusaders, however, converted five of six free throw attempts in the final 48 seconds of play to seal the victory as JC missed on all three of its shot attempts down the stretch.
Marcus Lee (Carrolltown, Pa./Bishop Carroll) had his second double-double performance of the season as he scored 12 points and grabbed 13 rebounds which tied his season-high. He also had three assists and two blocked shots. Clune added 10 points and five rebounds.
Juniata's 38.3% shooting from the floor on the night was its lowest of the season to date. On the flipside, its 10 turnovers were a season-low.
The Eagles did have a 35-27 advantage in rebounds. JC outscored Alvernia 10-2 in second-chance points, 26-12 in the paint, and 12-2 in bench points.
The loss drops Juniata to a record of 6-4 while the Crusaders improve to 7-4. The Eagles will play St. Joseph's (NY) in the consolation game tomorrow at 5:00 p.m.