ALTOONA, Pa. – Penn State Altoona men's basketball's postseason hopes took a big hit on Saturday afternoon, when the Lions were edged 97-95 in overtime to Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference opponent D'Youville College in the Adler Arena.
The Lions (7-16, 5-11 AMCC) were seeking a win to give themselves a shot at the sixth and final seed in the upcoming AMCC Tournament, but they came out on the losing end of a close overtime game with D'Youville (10-12, 8-7 AMCC).
"I'm very disappointed that we weren't able to pull that one out. We had plenty of opportunities to finish with the win, but we just weren't able to do so. Really good efforts offensively by multiple players, including Cam, Robbie, and Marshall, but at the end of the day, it just went back to our inability to get stops when we needed to get stops to close out the game," said Penn State Altoona head coach David McGreal. "Hats off to D'Youville and coach Earl Schunk, as well as their seniors, who made plays down the stretch to put them in position to win. We just needed one more rebound or one more stop, and we probably would've been able to walk away with the victory. But for whatever reason, we weren't able to do that."
Cameron Gardner-Nicholson (Philadelphia, PA/Boys' Latin Charter) led Penn State Altoona in scoring with 18 points, and he tied for the team lead in rebounds with nine. Marshall Higley (Sayre, PA/Sayre) came off the bench to contribute 15 points, eight rebounds, and three assists.
Austin Krise (Allport, PA/West Branch) added 14 points, a game-high five steals, four rebounds, and two assists. Jack Kusters (Quakertown, PA/Lansdale Catholic) also scored 14 points and grabbed four rebounds. Robbie Hicks (Rockledge, FL/Rockledge) contributed 11 points and three assists off the bench, and Y'shua Bragg (Pittsburgh, PA/Carrick) scored 10 points, secured nine rebounds, and blocked two shots. Rogelio Christian-Olan (Orlando, FL/Life Christian Academy) finished with eight points.
D'Youville got 27 points from the AMCC's leading scorer, Jeremy VanDuluitgaarden. Brian Nwaekeke scored 17 points for the Spartans, and Devon Camel and Brian Sharp added 15 points apiece.
Penn State Altoona controlled the first part of the first half, jumping out to a 12-point lead midway through the period.
Bragg's layup and Kusters' three-pointer opened the scoring, and baskets from Gardner-Nicholson and Christian-Olan made it 9-3. Kusters' layup and foul shot at 17:02 extended the Lions' lead to 12-3, and Higley's three-pointer at 13:42 gave Penn State Altoona what would be its largest lead of the day, a 19-7 advantage.
But D'Youville charged back and eventually grabbed the lead before halftime, outscoring Penn State Altoona 39-23 over the remainder of the period. Devon Darrell's layup at 4:40 tied the score 33-33, and back-to-back three-pointers from Camel gave the visitors a 39-35 lead one minute later. D'Youville built a 46-42 lead by the intermission, helped by Sharp's three-pointer and free throws from Camel and Nwaekeke.
The second half was played much tighter, with neither team able to get too far ahead.
Nwaekeke's layup at 9:11 gave D'Youville a 68-61 advantage, but Penn State Altoona rallied for a 14-7 run to tie the score. That run included two three-pointers from Krise and two from Hicks, including a trey at 6:16 that knotted the score 75-75.
D'Youville answered by reclaiming a small lead, and the Spartans made it a three-point game at 1:44 on Nwaekeke's basket that put his team up 82-79. Penn State Altoona responded with layups from Gardner-Nicholson and Christian-Olan, jumping ahead 83-82 with 38 seconds to go. Higley's free throws at the 21-second mark made it 85-82.
But a second chance opportunity on D'Youville's final possession of regulation led to the game-tying basket. Sharp missed a three-pointer, but Nwaekeke grabbed the offensive board and fed Sharp again, who this time connected from beyond the arc to tie the game 85-85 with 10 seconds to play. After a scoreless possession by the Lions, the game headed to overtime.
Krise started the scoring in the extra period, making a layup four seconds in to put Penn State Altoona up 87-85.
But D'Youville countered with a three-pointer from Will VanAuken and a layup from Darroll to leap ahead, 90-87. VanDuluitgaarden's layup and foul shot at 2:45 made it 93-89, and he scored another layup 35 seconds later to keep the Spartans' lead at four, 95-91.
Gardner-Nicholson made a layup at 1:56 to bring Penn State Altoona back to within two points, 95-93. But, after each team went scoreless on their next possessions, D'Youville got a big basket with 10 seconds left, when VanDuluitgaarden's dunk gave his squad a 97-93 advantage.
Kusters scored a layup at the buzzer for the Lions, but Penn State Altoona found itself two points short as the clock expired.
Now, the Lions will look to finish their season strong with a pair of AMCC games. The team travels to Pitt-Bradford this Wednesday, February 13 for an 8:00 p.m. game. After that, Penn State Altoona will wrap its schedule up at home for Senior Day on Saturday, February 16 at 2:00 p.m. against La Roche College.
"We need to get ready for our final two games and see if we can't salvage two wins and finish the season on a positive note," said McGreal.