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Hays guides Juniata to OT win over Grove City, 64-56

(Posted January 4, 2011)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Juniata College men's basketball performed in the clutch at both ends of the floor in overtime and posted a 64-56 win over Grove City College, Tuesday night at the Kennedy Sports + Recreation Center.

Juniata (7-5) outscored Grove City 11-3 in the extra session, led by freshman Jeremy Hays' (McMechen, W.Va./John Marshall) six points including a 4-for-4 mark at the free-throw line. Hays finished with a game-high 17 points, to go with five rebounds, two assists, and three steals.

The Eagles shot 50.0 percent (2-4) at the offensive end of the court in the overtime period, after hitting just 36.7 percent (18-49) of their shots in regulation.

Defensively, the Eagles clamped a lid on the Wolverines in OT, allowing Grove City to get away just five field goal attempts over the five minutes while committing three turnovers. Two of the three Grove City turnovers produced points for Juniata. After a 10-of-20 shooting performance in the first half, Grove City shot that pace tail off over the remainder of the game. The Wolverines were 11-of-28 (39.3 percent) from the field in the second half, before finishing with a 20.0 percent shooting clip in OT.

Hays was one of four Eagles to finish in double figures, as Juniata presented a balanced attack with heavy production from the bench. Sophomore guard Alex Raymond (Hollidaysburg, Pa./Altoona) tallied 13 points, while senior Bruce Knowles (Duncannon, Pa./Susquenita) logged 12 points. Junior guard Dan Sekulski (Douglassville, Pa./Daniel Boone) had 10 points and grabbed a team-high nine boards.

Of Juniata's 64 points, over a third - 23, to be exact - came from the Eagles' reserves.

Juniata had to battle back over the final three minutes of regulation to force the extra session.

Trailing 51-45 with 3:03 left in the second half, sophomore Nate Higgins (St. Mary's, Pa./Elk County Catholic) drained his first 3-pointer of the season to pull Juniata to within three of Grove City. After a jumper by the Wolverines' Luke Tomaselli, Juniata's Hays responded with a layup and foul shot on the traditional three-point play to cut the margin to two, 53-51, with 1:34 showing. Grove City missed on a 3-point attempt at the other end of the floor, and Hays eventually made a driving layup with just 18 seconds remaining to force overtime.

A pair of Hays foul shots just 27 seconds into OT gave Juniata a lead it would never relinquish. Raymond's foul shots with 3:27 showing put the Eagles up 58-54, giving Juniata a two-possession lead, and a Hays jumper at the 2:42 mark stretched Juniata's advantage to six points, 60-54.

Hays made his final free throws at the 18-second mark and Sekulski put the exclamation point on the win with a layup in the waning seconds.

Grove City (4-7) guard Charlie Thomas led the Wolverines with 14 points, leading a contingent of four Grove City players in double digits. Kris Verderber tallied 12 in the loss, while Cody Fleeger and Tomaselli finished with 11 each. Fleeger completed the double-double with 10 rebounds.

Juniata returns to Landmark Conference play this Friday night at 5:30 p.m. when it hosts Catholic University of America at the Kennedy Sports + Recreation Center.

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