When Jerome Jones (Charles Town, W.V./Washington) nailed his fifth three pointer of the night with 1:19 left in overtime, EMU fans had a good feeling their Runnin Royals had finally gotten over the hump. The junior then finished off the night with a pair of free throws with 3.5 seconds left, pushing Eastern Mennonite to a 101-95 win over Shenandoah University.
Jones ended up with a career high 32 points, including 10 in OT.
The much-needed victory snapped a two-game skid for EMU. The men improved to 9-9 overall and 3-6 in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference. They stand in a tie for ninth place in the league standings, but are just one win out of a four-way tie for fifth place.
The Runnin Royals controlled play when they needed to, out-scoring SU 17-11 in the extra five minutes. The men hit 3-of-6 shots in OT and all nine of their free throws. After shooting just 39.5% in the first half, Eastern Mennonite caught fire after the break, shooting 20-for-40 in the second half and overtime, including 10-18 from three-point range.
Only a couple of turnovers and three missed free throws over the final 1:21 of regulation let the Hornets (6-12 / 2-7 ODAC) back in the game. The men finished 17-22 from the stripe.
After trading runs and leads over the first 20 minutes, the Runnin Royals scored the first nine points of the second half to take over what had been a 40-37 deficit. They led by as many as 12 points during the frame, and were still up 79-68 when Jones cashed in on two ice-cream-winning free throws with 1:34 showing.
But the Hornets quickly started their comeback with a free throw and an offensive putback. When Dalon McHugh banked in a three pointer with 50 seconds left, SU was suddenly within 80-77. After a single EMU free throw, McHugh hit from long range again, cutting the margin to 81-80 with 30.9 remaining.
The men suffered a hard-luck turnover on the ensuing inbounds play, and SU responded with a quick lay-in from senior Malcolm Clark, putting the Hornets on top 82-81.
With plenty of time to work with, the Royals set up their final play and Travis Clower (Romney, W.V./Hampshire) nailed an open three from the right side, flipping the men back up 84-82 with 7.4 showing, but the Hornets got the tying lay-up from an open Seth Myers with 1.4 on the clock.
SU scored first in OT, but the Runnin Royals quickly took over. Clower hit a triple and RaShawn Latimer (Warrenton, Va./Kettle Run) grabbed a steal to set up Jones from a three-point play on the break, opening a 90-86 lead. After two free throws from the Hornets, the men scored four in a row from the line to push the cushion to 94-88.
Jones hit his huge three with 1:19 to go for the seven-point margin, but SU still got within 97-95 with 34.7 on the clock.
Isaiah Harris-Winn (Frederick, Md./St. Maria Goretti) sank a pair of free throws with 13.8 left, and the Royals got a defensive stand to ice it, leading to Jones' final tosses and a sigh of relief from the crowd of 597. The men had lost four of five coming into the night.
Led by Jones' 10-for-14 shooting effort, including 5-8 from long range, the Runnin Royals shot 44.9% from the game. SU shot a similar percentage, but the men earned the difference by hitting 14-of-34 threes, compared to 8-23 for the Hornets.
Jones added five rebounds and four assists to his first collegiate effort of 30+ points. Clower shot 4-6 from three and scored a career high 16 with four assists. Latimer added 15 and four assists, while Harris-Winn was good for 13 points, eight rebounds and five assists. EMU dished 25 assists on their 35 made field goals.
Mark Loving (Woodford, Va./Caroline) earned his first start and responded with seven points to go with team highs of nine rebounds, three blocks and two steals.
Clark finished with 28 points and 15 rebounds to lead Shenandoah. McHugh hit four triples and chipped in 18 counters.
Eastern Mennonite stays at home on Saturday, hosting Roanoke College at 3:00pm. It's also Alumni Appreciation Day in Yoder Arena, with the EMU women hosting second place Guilford at 1:00pm.
Coach Kirby Dean hoped his men turned a leaf with the win: