When Xavier McCants (Olney, Md./Sherwood) sliced to the hoop and tied the game with 2.4 seconds left, it capped a 14-6 run and earned overtime for the EMU basketball men. Visiting Bridgewater got the breaks in the extra five minutes, however, knocking off the Runnin Royals by a final of 76-65 in Yoder Arena.
The loss drops EMU to 10-14 overall and 5-10 in the ODAC. More importantly, it knocks the Runnin Royals out of contention for a home game in next week's ODAC Tournament.
EMU is tied with Randolph for ninth place in the conference standings. The two teams sit one game in front of 11th-place Ferrum and control their own destiny to earning a spot in the 10-team field.
The Royals stay at home this weekend, hosting No. 5 Randolph-Macon (22-2/14-1 ODAC) Saturday on Senior Recognition. Game time is at 4:30pm, following the EMU women hosting Hollins.
McCants' drive in from the right wing capped a fantastic final minute against Bridgewater (12-12/7-8 ODAC), where the men erased a six-point deficit. Trailing 61-55, DJ Hill (Woodbridge, Va./Hylton) started the final push with a bucket off a nice dish from Travis Clower (Romney, W.V./Hampshire) with 52 seconds left.
After forcing the Eagles into a shot clock violation, EMU called a timeout and drew up a play for a longball from Clower. The senior sharp shooter went even longer than planned, but easily drained his 30-foot three ball, getting the men within 61-60 with 11 seconds to go.
Bridgewater's Dimetri Chambers made just one-of-two free throws with nine ticks left, setting up EMU's final play. McCants took his defender off the dribble and hit the game-tying bucket with two Eagles in his face.
Bridgewater scored first in OT before Hill connected on a free throw to keep the score at 64-63. But with more than three minutes remaining, BC got a break that summed up the flow of the overtime period, getting a putback from Ken Stanciel apparently after the shot clock expired.
With nothing called by the officials and no red challenge flag to throw from the sidelines, EMU Coach Melvin Felix could only watch as the momentum turned against his team. The Eagles scored the next seven points and coasted to the finish.
The sour ending also negated a quick start from the Runnin Royals, who held Bridgewater scoreless for nearly the first four minutes of the game. EMU scored the first eight points of the night and led 13-3 on a three pointer from Tariq Caldwell (Richmond, Va./Lee-Davis) at the 14:57 mark.
BC turned the tables from there, however, and led 28-23 at halftime. The Eagles led by as many as 10 at 48-38 midway through the second before Eastern Mennonite started to come back.
EMU ended with a huge 48-37 rebounding advantage, including 20-8 in offensive rebounds. Caldwell led all players with 13 rebounds, including four offensive. McCants and Tim Jones (Forestville, Md./Central) each had six rebounds from their guard spots, and Hill took all five of his boards off the offensive glass.
Hill had a strong offensive performance overall, scoring a team high 16. He tied his career high in the process. Clower banged in 3-of-7 three pointers and scored 14. Caldwell and Jones each scored nine.
McCants also tied his career high with four steals.
Chandler Murray led Bridgewater off the bench with 18 points. Davrion Greer added 14, nine rebounds and four blocks.
The Eagles had a shooting edge at 40% to 33%, while both teams struggled from outside. The biggest difference was from the free throw line, where Bridgewater was 25-34, compared to 16-29 for the Royals.