Falcons Tipped In Tournament, Fall To Knights In Overtime
Grantham, PA — Despite rallying from a 12-point second half deficit to force overtime, the Falcons fell to New Jersey City University on Saturday night by the score of 72-66. Messiah's Derek Mosley and David Fernandez were named to the All-Tournament team for the tip-off event.
After running out of the gate to a 21-12 lead midway through the first half, Messiah found themselves down 31-30 at the half. Most of the work accomplished for the Falcons was done around the basket, as Messiah collected an 18-14 advantage in the paint through the first 20 minutes.
Still, the Knights ran off a 19-9 run to finish the first frame, scoring 10 points around the basket during that stretch.
"We came out ready to go, and put ourselves in a good position midway through the half," said Messiah head coach Rick Van Pelt. "We were capitalizing on their mistakes. Unfortunately, we let them right back into it, and it's tough to have that happen because of them getting to the basket."
The second half started like the first half ended for the Falcons, as they fell behind 48-36 just eight minutes into the frame. The Knights' interior play continued to be the main challenge for the Falcons, as NJCU's physical rebounding and post-play wore down the Falcons' defense.
Altogether, the Falcons would be outscored in the paint 20-8 in the second half alone.
Nevertheless, the Falcons continued to fight back.
Three pointers by sophomore Taylor Groff and senior Trey Ritzman bookended a two point jumper by junior Derek Mosley as the Falcons ran off an 8-0 run to pull with in 50-47 with 6:56 remaining.
"Going down the way we did, it's almost like we became more dangerous," said Van Pelt. "We had nothing to lose at that point, and our guys responded with some gutsy play. It was good for them to hit big shots."
Traling only by three, the Falcons would be the victims of a quick 5-0 run started by a one-handed dunk by the Knights' Taquan Abdullah. A few free-throws later, coupled with a basket by the Falcons, and the Knights held a 56-49 edge with just over 2:00 left in the game.
The Falcons would respond yet again, with freshman guard Zach Hoy hitting two free throws and Mosley knocking down one his three three-pointers on the night to bring Messiah to within 56-54.
With one minute remaining, the Knights' Kaihrique Irick would score a transition layup to give his team a four point lead. The Falcons, undeterred, looked to sophomore David Fernandez who would score a layup with 43 seconds remaining before a finishing a game-tying reverse layup with just 5 seconds remaining. Neither team could capitalize in the final seconds as the game moved to overtime.
"We were able to scratch ourselves back into it, and it helped that they missed a few free throws," said Van Pelt, commenting on the Knights' 1-4 performance from the free throw line in the final three minutes. "We felt good going into the overtime minutes."
In the overtime period, the Knights' pressure defense kept the Falcons off balance on their offensive end as they were forced into shots under duress as the shot clocked was winding down. In the meantime, NJCU began inching ahead on a pair of free throws and a weakside layup off a defensive scramble by the Falcons. A jumper by the Knights' Keith Williams gave NJCU a 66-60 lead with 1:18 remaining.
Mosley cut the lead in half, hitting another three-pointer to make it a 66-63 game. After a layup by the Knights' Keith Williams, Hoy cut the lead to two with a three-point play off a driving layup. Forced to foul, Messiah sent Williams to the line with just 16 seconds remaining. He calmly knocked in the pair before Messiah would come up empty on their final possession.
After the a final Messiah foul and another couple of free throws by Williams, the final score was in favor of NJCU, 72-66.
"I thought our guys missed an opportunity to come back and win that game," said Van Pelt. "It was great to them get back into it, but we wanted to finish it with a win."
The Falcons were outrebounded by the Knights, 40-24, further identifying the need for more effective play in the post.
"Without (Jeremiah) Runkle in there, we had some guys get challenged in the post in ways they're not used to seeing," said Van Pelt, commenting on the missing presence of senior forward Jeremiah Runkle who was a sidelined with an injury. "We had to battle, and our guys will learn from it."
The Falcons were led in scoring by Mosley, as the swingman collected 17 points on 7-12 shooting. Fernandez finished with 16 points for the Falcons, with Hoy collecting his first career double-digit scoring performance with 12 points.
Sophomore guard Chrystan DeVan led the Falcons with seven rebounds to go along with five assists.
Five players scored in double-figures for the Knights, with Williams leading the way with a team-high 16.
Kaihrique Irick, named tip-off tournament MVP, collcted 14 points. Joining Irick on the All-Tournament team was teammate Walik Albright (13 points, nine rebounds).
Messiah's Mosley and Fernandez were also named to the All-Tournament team. Reggie Richardson of Williamson Trade School and Jacob Bronder of PSU Wilkes Barre rounded out the honorees.
The Falcons fall to 2-1 on the season as they end their first week of play, and will get set to face York College at home on Tuesday night. Game time is set for 7:00 p.m. in Brubaker Auditorium.