Long-range shooting propels Lock Haven men

LOCK HAVEN — After two narrow misses in the pre-conference games, Lock Haven University men’s basketball coach Mike Nestor was hoping that his club could return home and get the conference schedule off to a solid start.

With several outstanding offensive efforts combined with a tough defensive effort, the Bald Eagles made coach Nestor’s hope become a reality by easily handling Clarion, 88-65, on Saturday afternoon.

“Our first two games were definitely winnable, but I don’t think we made enough winning plays in those games,” said Nestor. “We were up two, down one in both games, but I just don’t think we were prepared yet to make the winning plays. Today I thought the guys looked pretty strong and that was a big factor in our winning the game.”

The Golden Eagles got off to a fast start for an 8-2 lead in the early going but the Bald Eagles slowed them down by ripping off a 33-10 run to take a 35-18 lead with eight minutes left in the first half before showing a 47-31 lead at the break.

Leading the way for Lock Haven during the first 20 minutes was Christian Kelly with 16 points. Kelly finished with 28 points and eight boards for his near double-double.

“After the first couple weeks of the season, he has been pretty impressive,” said Nestor. “For him it is just getting comfortable with the style we are playing and the different situations that he faces. He does that pretty regularly in practice where he just makes shots and it is a big deal for us. When we have our regular lineup in that I like to start, he comes off the bench and he is probably going to be our leading scorer. He is playing starter minutes, but I just need that punch off the bench.”

While Kelly was the big offense weapon for Lock Haven in the first half, Matt Cerruti was held to just three points. However, in the first four minutes of the second period, Cerruti got hot and that resulted in 13 points during the time span as the Bald Eagles built their lead to 62-37.

“I think it was just me playing off my teammates,” said Cerruti. “In the first half I was trying to get a feel for the game whereas in the second half it was just drive and kick. The defense was collapsing and I was able to find the open spot and my teammates were finding me. The coaches always tell me to shoot with confidence and that is what I was doing.”

For the game, the Bald Eagles featured five players with double-digit totals. Kelly led the way with 28 followed by Cerruti with 16, Jihad Barnes with 13, Noah Warren with 11 and Jesse McPherson with 10.

“Since I have been here I have had the luxury of having a player who is capable of scoring as many points as anybody in the league,” said Nestor. “With these guys it is more enjoyable because on any given possession, you don’t know if you are going to get the ball. It is really enjoyable for them and it is my job to make sure that it stays that way.”

Most of the major damage by the Bald Eagles came from beyond the arc as they literally had a field day with treys, knocking down 14 en route to shooting more than 50 percent from the field. The fourteen treys is the most by a LHU team since they racked up 15 against the California (PA) Vulcans in 2011.

“Honestly making that many shots, fourteen of 28 from three-point distance, I can’t remember our three point percentage ever being that good,” said Nestor. But when you shoot like that good things happen and we’ll take that every night.”

Now even at 2-2 overall and 1-0 in the conference, the Bald Eagles will be right back at it this afternoon when the Mercyhurst Lakers roll into town. Tip for that game is tentatively set for 3 p.m.

Lock Haven 88, Clarion 65

CLARION (1-3, 0-1 PSAC)

Elijah Cottrill 5-8 6-8 18, Lawrence Lemon 5-9 0-1 10, Steven Rodriguez 3-7 1-1 7, Khari Williams 2-9 0-0 5, RJ Laugand 1-2 0-0 3, Sheriff Conteh 2-3 1-2, 7, Jonathan Williams 2-5 0-0 5, Javontay Pipkin 1-5 2-3 4, Kass Taylor 0-3 4-5 4, James Price 1-2 0-0 2, Jake Anderson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-53 15-20 65.

LOCK HAVEN (2-2, 1-0 PSAC)

Christian Kelly 9-15 6-9 28, Matt Cerruti 6-10 0-0 16, Noah Warren 4-8 1-2 11, Jesse McPherson 5-6 0-2 10, Marques Jackson 1-8 0-0 3, Jihad Barnes 4-7 3-6 13, Jaylen Washington 3-5 0-0 7, Ibrahim Sylla 0-1 0-0 0, Damian Young 0-0 0-0 0, Marcus Williams 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 32-60 10-19 88.

Halftime: Lock Haven 47-31. 3-point goals: Clarion 6-13 (Cottrill 2-3, Williams 1-3, Laugand 1-2, Conteh 1-2, Williams 1-1, Pipkin 0-1, Taylor 0-1); Lock Haven 10-19 (Kelly 4-6, Cerruti 4-6, Warren 2-6, Jackson 1-4, Barnes 2-4, Washington 1-2). Fouled out: Clarion-none, Lock Haven-none. Rebounds: Clarion 32 (Lemon 7), Lock Haven 34 (Kelly 7). Assists: Clarion 9 (Pipkin 5), Lock Haven 16 (Barnes 6). Total fouls: Clarion 18, Lock Haven 15.