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Falcons' Rally Falls Short As Watson Leads Spartans To Victory
Messiah's Trey Ritzman scores a late bucket for the Falcons in their loss to York College.

Grantham, PA — After falling behind by as many as 20 points in the second half, the Messiah men's basketball team staged a furious rally to pull to within four points on Tuesday, ultimately falling short of the dramatic comeback in a 72-59 loss to York College.

A short jumpshot from the left baseline by junior Derek Mosley cut the Falcons' deficit to 59-55 with just under five minutes to play. With the crowd on it's feet and chants of "defense" echoing off the Brubaker walls, York junior point guard Julian Watson nailed a back-breaking three-pointer from the left wing to give the Spartans a seven point lead. The shot, contested by sophomore guard Christyan DeVan, was not only Watson's first made shot from beyond the arc this season-- it was his first attempt.

"We didn't come into this game saying 'lay off of him, he can't shoot the three'," said Messiah head coach Rick Van Pelt. "But we knew he didn't look to get his shot up from (three-point range). The one he chose to take ended up being a big one."

Watson, York's leading scorer thus far in 2011-12, scored his average- 15 points- as he tied teammates Todd Maciejewski and Andrew Pawlyk for the team high. The three Spartans combined for their 45 points on 18-32 shooting.

The win for York in Grantham was it's first in as long as the York archives detail, which is back to 1997.

"York is a good team- they always are," said Van Pelt. "We put ourselves in an early hole and couldn't get out it."

Van Pelt's evaluation was dead-on. After taking an initial 2-0 lead, the Falcons' gave up 11 straight points to fall behind by nine. The Falcons next bucket wouldn't come until 13:33 on the clock in the first half, with York pulling ahead 18-4 at the ten minute mark.

Messiah would respond, drawing to within 28-19 off three-pointers by Mosley (2) and sophomore Brad Bolen. A three-pointer by Pawlyk put the Spartans up 33-19 as the teams went into the half.

In the second half the Spartans would race out to their 20 point lead thanks, mostly, to their transition offense. Their 8-2 run at the beginning of the period included three layups in the paint- two by Pawlyk and one by Maciejewski.

From that point on, Messiah would begin to chip away. The run started with two transition three-pointers by Bolen and a runner in the paint by sophomore David Fernandez.

After a couple of York baskets, the Falcons would again score eight points- this time on two three-pointers by Mosley and another runner in the paint by Fernandez.

"We started to get going in transition, which has been good for us so far this season," said Van Pelt, reflecting on his team's efforts to close their deficit to York. "Guys stepped up and made some big shots to get us back in it."

Though starting to trade baskets with York, Bolen, Fernandez, and Mosley would combine for another seven points as the Falcons pulled to within 53-44 with 9:25 remaining in the game. Fernandez, who scored a game-high 20 points, would continue to lead the Falcons' charge, scoring two buckets in the paint around a pair of free throws by Mosley to make it an eight point game (57-49) with 7:38 to play.

Maciejewski would score another bucket in the paint-- a challenge for the Falcons all night, to give his team a ten point lead once more.

From there, the Falcons get as close as they would in the second half, with senior Trey Ritzman (fastbreak layup), Fernandez (two free throws) and Mosley (baseline jumper) pushing the Falcons on a 6-0 run in a span on 1:43.

Including Watson's three-pointer, the Spartans close the game on a 13-4 run for the victory.

"It would have great for us to complete the comeback, but we paid for our early mistakes," said Van Pelt, whose team falls to 2-2 on the young season. "You can't get behind like we did to any time, let alone a good team, and feel bad for yourself after losing. We showed (during the second half run) that we can be better than we were at the beginning of this game."

On the night, Messiah shot just 37% percent from the field, falling prey to early shooting woes (7-32, 22% in the first half). The team shot 8-26 from three-point range for the game, with their second half shooting from downtown (5-11) contributing to their rally. Joining Fernandez in double-digit scoring were Mosley and Bolen with 18 and 11 points, respectively. Mosley shot 6-11 from the field, including 5-10 from downtown, while Bolen knocked in three of his four attempts from beyond the arc.

York moves to 3-1 on the season, with their only loss coming at the hands of #24 Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

The Falcons next play on Wednesday, November 30, when they travel to Lebanon Valley College to kick-start their Commonwealth Conference play for 2011-12. Game time is set for 8:00 p.m.