The EMU men did the right things at the right time Saturday afternoon, coming back from a seven-point deficit to force overtime and take a 91-81 win from Ferrum. The Runnin Royals won both games at their own EMU Tip-Off Classic to start the year 2-0.
After falling behind 9-2, Eastern Mennonite led by as much as 35-21 before turnovers and poor free throw shooting let the Panthers get back in the game. A 13-2 run by Ferrum gave the visitors their first lead since the opening minutes at 60-59 with 6:28 remaining. The surge continued to a 69-62 edge for FC with 3:07 to go in regulation.
That’s when the men finally started to hit some free throws. Over the first 37 minutes of play, the Royals made just 14-of-35 charity tosses. But the men went 4-8 in the final three minutes of regulation, and even the misses proved crucial.
After the Panthers converted a big three-point play to lead 72-65 with 1:43 to go, Andrew Thorne (Front Royal, VA/Skyline) made a layup to trim the lead to five. David Falk (Madison, VA/Madison) swatted away a Ferrum shot with 45 seconds to go and the Royals had life. Thorne missed two free throws, but R.J. Sims (Fort Washington, MD/Friendly) picked out a steal after a Ferrum rebound, and then zipped a pass to Falk for a dunk with 25 seconds showing.
Down by three, the Royals still needed some magic. Falk started it by forcing a turnover on the inbounds pass. He was strategically fouled with 22 seconds to go, but hit the first attempt to trim the lead to 72-70. His second attempt bounced off the front of the rim, and Thorne swooped in for an offensive board, and found Sims for a layup to knot up the score at 72-72 with 18 seconds left. EMU scored five points in a seven-second span to erase the deficit.
Ferrum managed to get off a shot in the closing seconds, but it wasn’t close and the game headed to overtime.
The streak continued for the Runnin Royals, as they scored the first six points of OT to go ahead 78-72 after a Sims three-point play. The Panthers finally got two free throws to end the 13-0 run, but they wouldn’t get closer than four points the rest of the way.
After the cold start, Eastern Mennonite connected on 13-of-19 free throws over final eight minutes of the contest to help ice the win. They still finished 27-54 in the game, setting a program record for free throws attempted.
The Royals shot 56% from the floor, including 4-10 from outside, and forced 30 Ferrum turnovers. The Panthers stayed in the game by shooting 47% from the floor and nailing 28-of-31 free throws. They also had a 38-28 edge in rebounding.
Dajon Daniel (Fredericksburg, VA/Mountain View) helped steady the men throughout the game and led all scorers with 27 points, tying his career high. Falk was 10-11 from the floor and tallied 24 points with a game high four steals. Sims picked up his scoring in crunch time and finished with 16. Thorne had nine rebounds, including five offensive, and five assists.
The Eastern Mennonite men remain at home next week, hosting Frostburg State on Tuesday and Marymount next Sunday.