With 1:09 left to play, the Runnin Royals trailed for the first time in nearly 119 straight minutes of basketball. Playing on a hostile floor at rival Bridgewater College, the men weren't fazed. RJ Sims (Fort Washington, Md./Friendly) hit a go-ahead layup with 45 seconds left, and EMU ended the game on a 6-0 run to win their third straight contest, 80-75.
The hot play at the end of the regular season has Eastern Mennonite virtually assured of the fifth seed in next week's ODAC Tournament. The Royals, 14-10 overall and 9-6 in the ODAC, wrap up the season at home Saturday night, hosting Emory & Henry College.
It was also EMU's fifth straight win over the Eagles, and their 10th in the last 11 meetings.
The winning recipe Wednesday night was hot shooting from outside and clutch plays down the stretch. In their two previous games, buzzer-to-buzzer trumpings of Randolph-Macon and Randolph, the Royals had been shooting nearly 55% from the floor, including 14-30 from long range. That pattern continued against BC, as the men hit 7-of-12 three pointers in the first half.
Back-to-back threes put the men up 18-6 just over eight minutes into the game. Bridgewater made a few small runs, but the men repeatedly put the lead back in double figures before taking a 45-37 advantage into the break.
A hot start to the second by the Eagles got the home team within three points at 52-49, but Eastern Mennonite answered with a 12-2 run to balloon the lead to 64-51 with 10 minutes to play.
Bridgewater came marching back and used an 8-0 streak to go ahead 75-74 on an Ed Reddick jumper with 1:09 showing on the clock. It was the first time the Royals had trailed in a game since a Feb. 8 loss at Hampden-Sydney.
That's when Sims answered with a drive to the hoop to put the men back in front, and BC simply ran out of gas. The Eagles missed two free throws with 40 seconds to go and Ryan Yates (Alexandria, Va./T.C. Williams) swished his two charity tosses to make it 78-75 with 25 ticks left.
Marcel Crump (Richmond, Va./Highland Springs) blocked Tavis Stapleton's layup attempt with 15 left, and Sims iced it with two more free throws.
Despite giving up 20 offensive rebounds and having seven more turnovers, the Royals found the way to win. They shot 47% from the floor, including 9-17 from long range, and connected on 17-of-23 free throws. Bridgewater shot 41%, hitting just two triples, and was 13-18 from the stripe.
Crump scored a team high 20 points to lead EMU. Freshman Kwa McDonald (Frederick, Md./Tuscarora) had a career high 14 by halftime and finished with 16. James Williams (Capitol Heights, Md./Archbishop Carroll) drilled all three of his long bombs and charted 13 points. Yates came in with 10 points and three assists.
Sims finished with just seven points, but scored four clutch points in the final 45 seconds. David Falk (Madison, Va./Madison County) was held in check offensively, but led all players with 15 rebounds and five blocked shots.
Reddick led the Eagles with 25 points and eight rebounds. Ronnie Thomas had 22 points and nine boards.
After closing the regular season with Emory & Henry on Saturday, the Royals will host an ODAC Tournament First Round game next Tuesday night. The ODAC's quarterfinals start Friday, Feb. 28, in Salem, Va.