Lock Haven men secure playoff berth

LOCK HAVEN — If the Lock Haven men’s basketball team was going to clinch a playoff spot for the postseason, it appeared as though it would have to wait until another day as Lock Haven trailed Bloomsburg.

Needing a win over Bloomsburg to clinch that spot, the Bald Eagles found a way to take care of business as they came on strong down the stretch to come from behind and defeat the Huskies, 78-75, to secure a playoff spot.

“It is just a good feeling, Lock Haven coach Mike Nestor. “I knew it, coach Bo (Brian Oleksiak, assistant) knew it, but I don’t think these guys knew it, which is a good thing. I don’t think they know anything half of the time so we just let them go out and play. As for Bloom, they are a scrappy team and I knew that. We are not a team that can come in and blow anybody out. We aren’t a team that is built that way. We just don’t have that kind of talent. For us, it just a matter of being tough and playing smart to scrap it through. I am just so proud of our guys. We finished the game with seven guys and one of them just came on the team a week-and-a-half ago.”

As for the game, it presented a bunch of peaks and valleys that the Bald Eagles had to play their way through to get the win. One big obstacle was in rebounding, an area that Bloomsburg held a distinct edge (37-26). However, the biggest obstacle might have been having to finish the game with one of the team’s two highest scorer on the bench with an injury.

“We had some things happen during that game in terms of personnel,” said Nestor. “It has kind of the thing that has been happening to us all season. It is a case of the next guy up because someone has to make a play.”

The Huskies jumped on top from the opening tip, leading 12-4 seven minutes into the game a lead they maintained (18-15) midway through the period.

Lock Haven took a 22-21 lead at the six-minute mark of the period before Bloom outscored the Bald Eagles, 14-9, down the stretch to take a 35-31 lead at halftime.

Already playing with a short bench, the Bald Eagles suffered yet another injury in the first half when high-scoring Christian Kelly went out with a lower leg injury and didn’t return.

Kelly, who does many things for the Eagles came into the game averaging 18.3 points per game.

“It is tough when you lose a guy like him,” said Nestor. “I think he is pretty hurt right now with the ankle. We will get some treatment on it, he will be off of it for a couple of days and the most important thing for us to do is just get him healthy so that when we bring him back he will be ready to play.”

The Huskies maintained their lead (41-39) four minutes into the second half until the two teams were deadlocked at 51-all with 11 minutes left in the half.

However, that is when Lock Haven turned up the intensity on both ends of the floor, outscoring the Huskies, 12-4, in the next 80 seconds for a 63-55 lead.

The Huskies battled back to tie the game at 65-all with 6:30 on the clock.

Down the stretch, the Bald Eagles went up by as many as six, but Bloomsburg always seemed to have the answer. That is until the final possession when the Eagles stiffened on defense to cause a Bloom turnover that locked up the deal.

With Kelly out of the lineup, high-scoring Matt Cerruti stepped up and more or less took over control of the team. Cerruti finished with 30 points and eight boards while also dishing out seven assists and coming up with a pair of steals.

“Being able to do what I did today is just one of those great feelings,” said Cerruti. “The main team goal all year has been to make it to the playoffs and that is what we have worked for since the fall. Now that we qualified, the next thing we hope to do is take the next step which means taking it one game at a time to prepare for whoever is next.”

Lock Haven 78, Bloomsburg 75

BLOOMSBURG (5-16, 2-14 PSAC)

Sekou Fofana 7-12 7-10 22, Sam Saxton 5-9 1-2 14, Peyton Mortellite 6-12 0-0 14, William Nelson 3-5 0-0 9, Travis Elmore 4-7 0-0 8, Nicholas King 2-8 0-0 4, D. Wallace-Robinson 1-2 1-2 4, Devon Ferrero 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-55 9-14 75.

LOCK HAVEN (10-10, 7-8 PSAC)

Matt Cerruti 10-19 7-7 30, Noah Warren 4-8 4-8 12, Jihad Barnes 2-10 6-6 10, Jesse McPherson 4-4 2-2 10, Christian Kelly 2-6 0-4 4, Ibrahim Sylla 3-3 0-0 6, Khaleeq Campbell 2-4 0-0 6, Damian Young 0-4 0-0 0. Totals 27-58 15-19 78.

Hallftime: Bloomsburg, 35-31. 3-point goals: Bloomsburg 10-19 (Fofana 1-2, Saxton 3-6, Mortellite 2-5, Melson 3-3, King 0-2, Robinson-Wallace 1-1); Lock Haven 9-24 (Warren 4-8, Cerruti 3-6, Campbell 2-4, Barnes 0-1, Kelly 0-2). Fouled out: Bloomsburg-none. Lock Haven-none. Rebounds: Bloomsburg 37 (Fofana 11), Lock Haven 26 (Cerruti 8). Assists: Bloomsburg 13 (Melson 4); Lock Haven 17 (Cerruti 7). Total fouls: Bloomsburg 16, Lock Haven 13. Technical fouls: Bloomsburg-none. Lock Haven-none. A: 230.