The Juniata men's basketball team put the finishing touches on the best regular season in program history this past weekend and will host Catholic in the Landmark Conference semifinals Wednesday at 5:30. Before looking at the match up, let's take a look back on how the JC men got here.
The Eagles opened the season with four straight double-digit victories, as in the month of November they won by an average of 24.25 points. Their first two wins occurred in the Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament at Penn St. Altoona.
The month of December saw the Juniata men start things off by winning their first conference game of the season over visiting Scranton. They also captured two home tournament championships as they won the 26th Annual Doc Greene Tournament and won their Holliday Tournament. They won the Doc Greene Tournament against Randolph Macon (who is now 18-7) and blew out Manhattanville by 42 in the championship game of the Holiday Tournament.
The win against the Valiant's put the Eagles at 11-0 heading into the new year, the best ever start in program history. The women's team was also still undefeated at this time, as Juniata basketball went 22-0 in the first half of the season.
The Juniata men started the 2018 in the national polls (D3hoops) for the first time in program history, coming in at 23rd. They returned to the court on the road with a hard-fought win at Lancaster Bible, but then suffered their first loss, 82-70, at Catholic. The Eagles returned home for a win over Goucher, before suffering back to back last-second losses at Drew and at Susquehanna. The Eagles had a four-game home stand to close the month and took care of business as they chalked up four wins.
February saw them face a four-game road trip before Senior Day, and they picked up an enormous road win at Scranton which became even more important later. Wins at Goucher and Elizabethtown sandwiched a tough 12-point loss at Moravian. So on the final day the Eagles defeated Drew. Because Catholic edged Moravian that gave Juniata the #1 seed via the tiebreaker of the Eagle sweep of Scranton. The Eagles finished with a program best 21 wins, a perfect 13-0 record at home and reciving votes in the national polls.
Juniata and Catholic split the regular season series 1-1, with Catholic prevailing 82-70 in DC before Juniata got revenge with a 70-62 win.
The last time these two teams met in the playoffs was 2015-16 when Juniata traveled to DC and fell to Catholic, 79-66.
Jay Howard put up a career-high 33 points and six rebounds in the Cardinal win while Jimmy Golaszewski scored 25 points while shooting 8-10 (5-7 from three).
In the Eagle win, Marcus Lee (Carrolltown, Pa./Bishop Carroll) had 25 points, eight rebounds and three blocks while Paul Martello (York, Pa./York Catholic) scored a career-high 16 points and ensnared two steals.
Catholic leads the Landmark in three-point percentage at 40.0%, the least number of turnovers at 12.6 per game and they rank second in rebounds per game at 37.0.
The Cardinals are led by Howard who is atop the conference in scoring at 23.8 points per game, fifth in field goal percentage (55.3%) and is fourth in blocks (26). Golaszewski is second on the team in scoring at 14.0 per game, second in the conference in three-point percentage (49.0%).
Andre Mitchell is third on the team in points with 13.7 per game and is second in the conference in steals with 41. Riley Hayes is fourth on the team in scoring at 9.0 per game and is fourth in the conference in rebounding at 8.8.
Juniata ranks second in the country in field goal percentage (51.6%), seventh in the country in scoring defense at 62.9 points per game and is tied for 10th in scoring margin at 14.6. JC is also ranked first in the Landmark in assists at 17.4.
The Eagles are led by Lee who is second in the conference in scoring at 19.1 points per game, second in field goal percentage at 64.9% and fifth in blocks with 24. Seth Brewer (Lancaster, Pa./Manheim Township) is second on the team in scoring at 12.9 points per game, fourth in the Landmark in the field goal percentage at 56.1%, first in the conference at free throw percentage (87.3%) and third in steals with 111. Brandon Martinazzi (Cresson, Pa./Bishop Carroll) is third on the team in scoring at 12.3 while shooting 42.0 percent from three. The Eagles wrapped this season with a perfect 13-0 record at home.
Excitement is building all over campus for both teams, including all the way to president's office.
"It has been a historic season for both our men's and women's basketball teams and we couldn't be more proud of their success," said President Jim Troha. "To have both of our basketball teams go undefeated at home this year is just a remarkable accomplishment. And it will be the first time ever that both teams are hosting, together, a postseason game in Kennedy Gymnasium. The atmosphere Wednesday night will be electric."