By Jake Smucker, Contributing Writer
The Goshen College men’s basketball team fell just short in their comeback bid against the University of St. Francis Cougars on Saturday afternoon. The Maple Leafs fell behind before mounting a ferocious comeback late in the second half, but St. Francis held on by completing 11 of 12 free throws down the stretch.
The Leafs had reason to be optimistic entering the game after falling by just three points to St. Francis on Dec. 1. Now playing at home and hungry for their first conference win of the season, the Leafs started strong as they took a 6-4 lead. However, from then on, the Leafs could not keep up with St. Francis, who mounted a 19-4 run faster than Chad Coleman to an iPhone release. St. Francis converted rebounds and blocks by snatching virtually every loose ball and speeding up the court for high-percentage shots near the basket.
Nothing the Leafs tried could slow down the Cougars or build momentum. In one possession, after 30 seconds of strong defense by the Leafs, the Cougars got off a guarded 3-pointer and canned it just before the shot clock expired. Later, trailing 45-24, Trevor Commissaris, a first-year, provided the highlight of the night. After catching the ball in the short corner baseline, he got his defender in the air with a pump fake and drove past him to throw down a two-handed flush as he was fouled. On the other end, Stefon Luckey tried to keep the momentum going by swiping a ball and speeding down-court before giving the ball right back by picking up his second charge of the game.
With 2:30 to play in the half, St. Francis finally slowed their pace of play, taking nearly the entire shot clock on their last few possessions of the half, but the visibly frustrated Leafs were still unable to narrow the deficit. After a half that can only be described as utter domination, St. Francis held wide leads in rebounding, turnover margin and fouls—in addition to their 51-31 halftime lead.
After half, the Leafs’ leading scorer on the year, Jerron Jamerson, set out to improve upon his 3-point first-half performance. Nearly all Maple Leaf possessions early in the half were sparked by his drives, but the scoring came from everywhere—particularly Matt Glick inside, Tavo Parral outside, and Jamerson from the free throw line. After some halftime defensive adjustments, the Maple Leafs held even with St. Francis for most of the second period.
Finally, with four minutes remaining, Goshen mounted their charge, thanks to the switch to a full-court press defense. The press forced turnovers, quick shots and overall poor play by St. Francis. Thanks in part to Jamerson making plays on both ends, Goshen went on a 12-0 run to cut the lead to 5 points with 1:13 to play. However, Goshen began to foul and St. Francis, unwilling to cooperate in the Leafs’ comeback attempt, made 11 of their final 12 free throw attempts.
St. Francis held on to claim a 93-86 victory. A career-high scoring total (22 points) for “Mr. Consistent,” Matt Glick, was no replacement for a -10 rebounding margin and far too many turnovers attempting to force the ball into the post. With the loss, the Leafs fell to 0-12 in Crossroads League play and 7-16 overall.