After digging out of a big hole to start the game, the Runnin Royals did everything they need to do to earn a key road win Saturday. But the men came up just short, missing two inside shots in the final two seconds of an 81-80 overtime loss at Emory & Henry.
The Wasps held a slight 16-15 lead in the first, when the home team patiently went on a 15-2 run to build up a 31-17 edge.
Eastern Mennonite kept their calm, attacking the basket and making a comeback. Adam Burroughs (Roanoke, VA/Northside) nailed a triple to complete a 12-0 run, cutting the lead to one at 35-34 with 1:31 left in the half. The Wasps would push the lead back to 42-36 at the break, but the men knew they were back in the game.
With their outside looks not falling, the Runnin Royals continued to slash to the hoop. They scored the first six of the second to tie the game at 42-42, and eventually took a 52-46 edge on a J.R. Gray (Staunton, VA/R.E. Lee) free throw.
EHC regrouped and capped 15-2 surge with back-to-back dunks, going back in front 61-54 with 7:24 remaining. R.J. Sims (Fort Washington, MD/Friendly) got a steal and converted a three-point play to trim the deficit to two with 2:45 to go, but the Wasps stayed in front.
The teams traded scores until Burroughs nailed the men's second triple of the game to knot the score at 72-72 with 30 seconds left. Emory & Henry fired a shot with four ticks left, but missed. And Sims' long heave at the buzzer was off as well, sending the game into extra time.
Owen Longacre (Telford, PA/Christopher Dock), Andrew Thorne (Front Royal, VA/Skyline) and Corey Sheppard (Richmond, VA/Open) each hit layups to open overtime, as the Runnin Royals went ahead 78-72. But EMU's shots stopped falling and the Wasps scored the next seven to go up by one with 54 seconds left.
Thorne went to the hoop and drew a foul with 43 ticks to go, and the junior made one of two, tying the score. Sims picked out a steal and James Williams (Capitol Heights, MD/Archbishop Carroll) was fouled going to the hoop. The freshman also made just one of two, giving EMU a perilous 80-79 lead with 26 seconds remaining.
Emory & Henry took their final shot a little earlier in OT, getting a Malcolm Green layup with 10 ticks to go. The Royals again went down low, but missed two inside looks in the final seconds to come out one point short.
Eastern Mennonite forced a whopping 32 EHC turnovers, and improved their free throw shooting to 22-30 for 73%. But the Wasps made up for the turnover margin by shooting 53% from the floor and holding a commanding 50-31 edge on the boards. EMU shot 40%, including a chilly 2-for-18 from outside.
Williams led the Royals from the bench, hitting 9-of-10 free throws to finish with 17. Sheppard, Longacre, Burroughs and Thorne each scored 10 points. Longacre led EMU with seven rebounds.
The men had 17 steals, topped by Sims' five picks. Dajon Daniel (Fredericksburg, VA/Mountain View) had four and Thorne added three.
Green led Emory & Henry with 17 points, including the game-winner. Armando Murrell added 15 points and 12 rebounds, despite going 1-for-12 from the free throw line.
The loss is the third straight for EMU, as the men fall a full game behind Emory & Henry and Washington and Lee, at 5-9, in the ODAC standings. Those two teams hold the seventh and eighth seeds in the league, with the Royals tied with Bridgewater for ninth at 4-10.
Now 9-14 overall, the men have lost five of their last six. However, four of the last five games have been decided by three points or less. The Runnin Royals play at Washington and Lee on Wednesday and then close the regular season next Saturday at home, hosting Guilford.