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Juniata comeback bid falters in final minute against Grove City

(Posted January 5, 2009)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Some clutch free-throw shooting by Grove City College down the stretch helped blunt a Juniata College comeback attempt, and allowed the Wolverines to escape with an 81-72 win over the Eagles, in men's basketball action Monday night at the Kennedy Sports + Recreation Center in Huntingdon, Pa.

Juniata (2-10) trailed by 13 points, 65-52, with 7:39 showing on the clock, following Grove City's 15-2 run over the previous six minutes of play - a run that broke the 12th tie of the game.

The Eagles clawed their way back into the contest with an 8-0 run of their own, thanks largely to a Jeff Berkey (Stoystown, Pa./Shanksville-Stonycreek) three-pointer and a pair of foul shots by forward Ryan Jones (Coudersport, Pa./Coudersport) that cut the margin to 60-65.

A put-back bucket by Grove City's Ryan Gibson and a Joe McCoy trey widened the Wolverines' lead to 70-60, but Juniata's David Thompson (Altoona, Pa./Altoona) drained a jumper to cut the lead back to single digits at 70-62. After the two sides traded a pair of foul shots, Thompson was called for the hand-check foul to send Gibson back to the line for two foul shots with 2:17 showing. Gibson converted both attempts, giving Grove City a 74-64 lead with 2:17 to play.

Thompson redeemed himself on Juniata's next trip down the floor with a three-pointer, and Jones made a layup with one minute remaining to end a 64-second scoring drought for both teams while cutting the Wolverine lead to 74-69.

Grove City's Andy O'Keefe was fouled by Jones, and hit the second of two free throws to expand the lead to 75-69 with 52 seconds remaining. Thompson missed a three-point attempt at the other end of the floor, and O'Keefe's layup in transition gave Grove City a 77-69 lead with 35 seconds on the clock, and began to close the door on Juniata's comeback bid.

The Wolverines' McCoy and Cody Fleeger each went 2-for-2 at the free-throw line in the final 25 seconds, securing the win for Grove City College.

The first half was a see-saw affair featuring 10 ties and four lead changes. The Wolverines ended the half with a 9-3 run, and went into the locker room at halftime with a 41-35 lead.

Thompson led the Eagles with 23 points and six rebounds, with Berkey tallied 17 points and Jones chipped in with 16. Grove City (7-3) also had three players in double figures, led by McCoy with 20 points and Gibson and O'Keefe with 16 each.

Juniata resumes Landmark Conference play this weekend, opening a stretch of four consecutive road games with a matchup at Moravian College on Friday, Jan. 9, at 7:30 p.m

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