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Juniata men's hoops drops 64-57 decision at Scranton in Landmark championship

(Posted March 1, 2008)

SCRANTON, Pa. -- Juniata College let a halftime lead slip away behind a pair of University of Scranton runs early in the second half, as the Eagles fell to Scranton 64-57 in the Landmark Conference Men's Basketball Championship game, Saturday night at the John J. Long, S.J., Center in Scranton, Pa. Juniata (17-10) pulled away from the Royals with an 11-0 run midway through the first half, and held a 28-20 lead as late as the 2:55 mark of the first half following a layup by Jeff Berkey (Stoystown, Pa./Shanksville-Stonycreek). The lead slipped to four points by the end of the half, after a pair of field goals by Scranton's Ryan FitzPatrick and one by Tom Bicknell over the final two minutes of the opening frame. Scranton (19-8) opened the second half with a 7-0 run to take a 33-30 lead by the 16:56 mark, but Juniata eventually came back to tie the game at 35-35 with a Kyle Opitz (Gibsonia, Pa./Pine Richland) three-pointer. The Royals answered with a layup by Randy Arnold, which launched an 12-3 run that gave Scranton a 47-38 lead with 10:25 left in the game following a pair of Paul Hawk foul shots. The Royal lead reached its widest at 53-42 after an Arnold three-pointer with 9:05 remaining. That would be Scranton's last bucket for the next five-and-a-half minutes, as Juniata went on a 10-0 run of its own. The Eagles received three-pointers from Brian Cannon (Fallston, Md./Fallston) and Opitz, plus a pair of foul shots by Cannon, and cut the Scranton lead to 53-52 by the 4:55 mark. A Ryan Kirk trey with 3:34 left in the game ended the Royal scoring drought, and extended the Scranton lead to four points, 56-52. Cannon returned with a layup at the other end of the floor to knock the Scranton back to two points, and made the first of two free throws 40 seconds later after he was fouled by Hawk. Scranton went on to score the next eight points, including shooting 4-of-4 at the line in the final minute to take a 64-55 lead. Opitz sailed in for an uncontested layup in the final seconds to make the final score 64-57. Opitz led Juniata with 18 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the field, while Cannon tallied 17 points to go with eight rebounds. Justin Baker (Nanty Glo, Pa./Bishop Carroll) also hauled down eight rebounds for the Eagles. Scranton had four players score in double figures, led by Zach Ashworth and Arnold with 15 each. Hawk chipped in with 12 points, and FitzPatrick added another 11 for the Royals. The championship was Scranton's 18th men's basketball championship in school history. Juniata will now wait to see if it receives a bid for the ECAC Tournament; those selections are expected to be announced on Monday afternoon. -30-

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