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Late Hoops Foil Basketball Men Comeback

(Posted February 14, 2006)

Jeff Byer scored a season-high 15 points and grabbed a career-best nine rebounds for Juniata against Susquehanna.

Susquehanna 72, Juniata 60

SELINSGROVE, Pa. ? A pair of late three pointers from the home team thwarted another Juniata College men?s basketball comeback attempt as Juniata?s hopes to claim a conference postseason berth came to an end with a 72-60 loss to Susquehanna in Selinsgrove.

The set-back dropped Juniata to 10-14 overall and 5-8 in conference play while Susquehanna improved to 10-14 and is now 6-7 in conference action. Juniata?s postseason hopes actually would have ended regardless of the result in Selinsgrove as a result of wins from both Albright and Elizabethtown in other Commonwealth action.

After leading by as many as three points in the early stages of the second half, Juniata found itself trailing by double digits with 10:15 remaining in the game after a 9-0 run from the Crusaders after three straight threes. The lead was still at nine points with 6:47 remaining but the Eagles refused to go away. Back-to-back hoops from Jeff Byer (Conemaugh Twp./Davidsville) and Neil Holloway (Tussey Mountain/Saxton) and a pair of Nick Hager (Franklin/Franklin) free throws completed a 6-0 run that brought Juniata within three points with 2:07 remaining. But Susquehanna?s Todd DeNapoli drilled back-to-back threes on the Crusader?s next two possessions to extend the lead to nine and seal the win.

The game was a back-and-forth affair for all of the first half and much of the second stanza. The first half featured five ties as neither team held a lead of more than six points in the first half. The Eagles claimed that six-point cushion after a Travis Boyd (Juniata Valley/Barree) lay-up with 1:12 left in the first half and took a four-point lead into halftime. Susquehanna quickly took a lead in the early stages of the second half, jumping out by eight before a Boyd three cut into the margin. Then the Crusaders put their run together, extending the lead to double figures.

Boyd paced Juniata with 16 points while also grabbing eight rebounds. Byer, who made his first start of the season in the game, posted a season-high with 15 points and grabbed a career-best nine rebounds. Hager was also in double figures with 10 points, while Hager and Tommy McConnell (Bishop Guilfoyle/Hollidaysburg) both passed out four assists.

DeNapoli led all players with 21 points for Susquehanna as he was 5-for-5 from three-point range. Brad Okonak added 14 points while Matt Effler recorded a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds. Zac Smith led all players with eight assists.

Juniata will close out the season on Saturday when the Eagles host conference foe Albright.

JUNIATA (60): Boyd 6 0-0 16, Holloway 2 0-0 4, Byer 7 1-4 15, McConnell 1 0-0 2, Hager 3 2-2 10, Ferko 3 1-2 7, Opitz 1 0-0 3, Chamberlain 1 1-1 3, Price 0 0-0 0, Holencik 0 0-0 0, Baker 0 0-0 0. Totals ? 24 5-9 60.

SUSQUEHANNA (72): Okonak 5 2-2 14, Effler 4 3-4 11, Smith 1 2-2 5, Lauer 2 0-0 4, Cohle 1 1-2 3, DeNapoli 7 2-3 21, Gaebel 1 0-0 3, Ulichny 2 0-0 4, Thomas 0 0-0 0, Patch 1 0-0 2, McDevitt 0 5-6 5. Totals ? 24 15-19 72.

Halftime: Juniata 30-28. 3-point goals: Juniata 7 (Boyd 4, Hager 2, Opitz); Susquehanna 9 (DeNapoli 5, Okonak 2, Smith, Gaebel). Assists: Juniata 14 (McConnell, Hager 4); Susquehanna 18 (Smith 8). Rebounds: Juniata 34 (Byer 9); Susquehanna 45 (Effler 13).

Records: Juniata (10-14, 5-8 Commonwealth), Susquehanna (10-14, 6-7 Commonwealth).

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Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.