Before Sunday's game vs. Stevenson, Lycoming College took time to celebrate Kevin Anthony's 1,000th career point, which he earned on January 4 in the midst of a four-game road stretch. Unfortunately for the Warriors, that's where the celebrating stopped.
Looking overmatched and out-hustled, Lycoming was dominated in all facets during the first half of Sunday's contest. And though they clawed their way into the game after halftime, the Warriors' first-half blunders left them in a hole that could not be surmounted, as they fell to the MAC Commonwealth's top-ranked Mustangs, 79-74.
Warrior fans in attendance looked pretty glum by the time the game's first 20 minutes had elapsed, and with good reason. After shooting a lousy 28-percent on field goals, Lycoming was being handled easily by a Stevenson unit that had hit 19 of its 32 shots. The Mustangs had also found major success from the perimeter early, as four players combined for nine first-half 3-pointers in a 49-30 halftime lead.
However, when the teams took to the court in the second half, they appeared to switch roles.
Playing with a newfound energy, Lycoming worked its way back into the game by playing aggressive on the boards and assertive in the paint. The new attack was enough to stifle Stevenson's ball movement, which was in stark contrast to the way the Mustangs had sliced through the Warrior defense in the first half, and left them quickly deflated.
More importantly, Lyco began forcing Stevenson into tough shots, which allowed the Warriors to develop their transitional game and helped them outscore the Mustangs by 14 points in the second half.
"Credit Lycoming, they did a very good job of protecting the paint in the second half," Stevenson's head coach Gary Stewart said. "The league is extremely difficult. It's very well-coached and the kids are highly competitive. We knew [Lycoming] was going to keep their foot on the accelerator."
Senior forward Kevin Anthony led Lycoming throughout, accounting for more than one-third of his team's total points, with 26. He also brought down 11 rebounds and added three steals. Patrick Dougher also played big for the Warriors, scoring 19 points, while going 6 for 6 from the line.
With 7:42 left on the clock, Lycoming had earned its first lead since the opening minutes of the first half, when Jourdan Wilson sunk two free-throws to put the Warriors up 62-60. The lead didn't last however, and after a back-and-forth struggle ensued, Lycoming found itself down by three points with eight seconds remaining in regulation, after a successful free-throw attempt by the Mustangs' Alfonzo Hawkins.
Excited, many fans in the Lycoming crowd rose to their feet in anticipation of the would-be last second 3-point shot that could send the game into the overtime. Unfortunately for them, it never happened.
As Dougher attempted an inbound pass to Anthony, the sloppily-thrown ball was intercepted by Stevenson's freshman guard Darius Walker, and Lycoming's improbable comeback was stopped dead in its tracks.
The steal was just one of many amazing plays from Walker, who led Stevenson 24 points and 11 rebounds.
When reached for comment after the game, Lycoming head coach Guy Rancourt didn't seem interested in talking about moral victories, even after watching his 6th-place Warriors give the 1st-ranked Mustangs a serious run.
"I'm not happy that we only played one half of a game," he said. "In a game where you have a talented team that has beat top-ten teams in the nation, you need to play for 40 minutes, and we didn't do that."
STEVENSON (12-3, 7-1 CC)
Darius Walker 8-16 4-7 24; Christian Roberts 5-10 0-0 12; Colby Giacubeno 4-5 1-2 12; Alfonzo Hawkins 2-7 6-6 10; Stefon McCray 5-6 0-0 10; Justin Kuntz 1-2 4-4 6; Erik Fisher 2-8 0-1 5; Kelly Davis 0-1 0-0 0; Jeff Holmes 0-0 0-1 0; Josh Faulcon 0-0 0-0 0; Tyrus Costly 0-1 0-0 0; Ryan Hill 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-56 15-21 79.
LYCOMING (7-7, 3-5 CC)
Kevin Anthony 10-16 6-10 26; Patrick Dougher 6-13 6-6 19; Michael Rudy 4-14 2-4 11; Malcolm Covington 3-11 5-8 11; Jourdan Wilson 1-2 2-2 4; Justin Miller 1-6 1-2 3; Eric Ishman 0-1 0-0 0; Andy Abreu 0-0 0-0 0; Nykolas King 0-2 0-0 0; Rob Pillow 0-1 0-0 0; John Monkam 0-0 0-2 0. Totals 25-66 22-34 74.
Halftime: Stevenson, 49-30. 3-point goals--Stevenson 10-18 (Walker 4-7; Giacubeno 3-3; Roberts 2-2; Fisher 1-3; Hawkins 0-3), Lycoming 2-15 (Dougher 1-6; Rudy 1-5; Wilson 0-1; Ishman 0-1; Pillow 0-1; Covington 0-1). Fouled out--Stevenson- Miller. Rebounds--Stevenson 36 (Walker 11), Lycoming 46 (Miller 12). Assists--Stevenson 13 (Roberts 8), Lycoming 10 (Covington 5). Total fouls--Stevenson 23, Lycoming 17. Technical fouls--None. A-467