Senior Andrew Thorne (Front Royal, VA/Skyline) grabbed an offensive rebound and R.J. Sims (Fort Washington, MD/Friendly) followed with the go-ahead jumper with 8.5 seconds left as Eastern Mennonite beat rival Bridgewater 72-68 on the road Wednesday night. The win snapped a three-game losing skid for the Royals and put them into a three-way tie for seventh with BC and Washington and Lee in the heated Old Dominion Athletic Conference.
The teams traded leads in a classic first half, with EMU holding the biggest edge at seven points. David Falk (Madison, VA/Madison) capped a 7-0 run with a dunk to put the Royals up 34-27 with 4:33 left in the half. But Bridgewater quickly closed the gap and sliced the lead to two by halftime, 38-36.
The Eagles slid ahead 44-41 early in the second, but a 12-2 spurt put Eastern Mennonite back in front, 53-46. Sims had the big play in the run, diving to the floor for a steal at half court, then getting up to beat the transition defense and dunk the ball.
A Thorne jumper kept the lead at 60-53 with 7:03 to go, but the Eagles scored the next eight points to take the edge at 61-60. EMU’s Dajon Daniel (Fredericksburg, VA/Mountain View) accounted for the next three points, as the seesaw battle continued.
Bridgewater returned fire with the next five to go ahead 66-63 with 2:25 left, but Sims drilled a three from the left wing to knot the score. The Royals had a chance to take the lead after a defensive stand, but Thorne missed an alley-oop from Sims.
With the score knotted at 66-66, the Eagles had their own chance for the lead, but Sims picked out the steal with 1:24 left. Thorne made good this time, hitting a jumper in the lane to put EMU up 68-66 with 1:06 left.
Zach Hunter (Newport News, VA/Woodside) missed a layup for BC on their next possession, but the Eagles kept the ball with an offensive rebound. After a tied up ball, the home team inbounded under their hoop, and Hunter was left open on the weakside for an easy game-tying lay-in, making it 68-68 with 43 seconds to play.
The Royals got a good look on a three pointer from Owen Longacre (Telford, PA/Christopher Dock) from the right corner, but the big man’s shot rimmed out. Thorne tipped out an offensive board to Sims, though, and the junior hit a shot from the free throw line with 8.5 seconds to go, putting EMU in front 70-68.
Ronnie Thomas (Roanoke, VA/Patrick Henry) missed a running floater for BC, and Daniel grabbed the rebound. He was fouled with 0.4 left, and made both free throws to ice the win, 72-68.
As with most rivalry games, the decision came down to who made the right plays at the right time, and the Royals inched to the road win with key plays in the final minute. Shooting percentages were relatively even: 43% for EMU and 41% for Bridgewater. The Eagles had a 45-34 edge on the boards, but Eastern Mennonite made eight three pointers to BC’s two, and had a +4 turnover margin, 19-15.
Thorne, who had the key offensive rebound to set up Sims’ winning shot, finished with 18 points and five rebounds. Sims charted 13 points, three assists and two steals.
Longacre just missed a double double with 10 points and nine rebounds. He also had three picks. Daniel came in with eight points and five rebounds.
Ed Reddick (Virginia Beach, VA/Kellam) led Bridgewater with 20 points and 12 rebounds. Thomas had 17 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals.
The Runnin Royals improve to 11-7 overall and 4-5 in the ODAC. EMU is at upstart Lynchburg this Saturday at 3:00pm. The Hornets are tied for third in the ODAC at 6-3 after upsetting Guilford Wednesday night.