The Runnin Royals ended a two-game skid in a big way on Wednesday evening, after coming up with a program record for a team shooting percentage of 63.3% from the floor as they blew past visiting Shenandoah University, 121-93. After a vital win for postseason positioning, Eastern Mennonite (10-13/5-10 ODAC) hopes to carry the momentum into their final game of the regular season on Saturday evening.
The men are slated to play in Yoder Arena against Emory & Henry, who currently sits in a four-way tie for second with Roanoke, Virginia Wesleyan, and Washington and Lee.
Because Lynchburg upset Guildford on Wednesday evening, the Royals have locked up the ninth seed for the ODAC Tournament. This means that the men will likely travel to Lynchburg or Bridgewater, depending on the score of that matchup set for Saturday afternoon.
Regardless of where, the Royals will play in the First Round on Tuesday, Feb. 20. The men's quarterfinals are Friday, Feb. 23, in Salem, Va.
Just three days removed from another close, overtime loss, Eastern Mennonite exploded on offense against the Hornets (8-16/3-12 ODAC). The men found their rhythm midway through the first half and never cooled off, finishing with season highs of 50-79 from the floor (63.3%) and 35 assists.
Helping to trigger the offensive flow, the Runnin Royals got into their transition game with finding 33 points off of the fastbreak. The men also earned a 22-10 advantage in points off turnovers.
EMU trailed 5-4 early, before throwing a quick 14-6 spurt to flip to an 18-11 lead. SU saved itself from beyond the arc each time EMU made a run, as the Hornets scored on back-to-back possessions from three to come within four, piecing together a 7-for-15 3FG first half.
At the 7:42 mark, the Royals created what felt like a comfortable cushion at 40-21, after running away with a 16-2 run. Sammy Thomas (Owings, Md. / Northern) and Christian Hansen (Manassas Park, Va. / Osbourn Park) combined for eight points in the run, in part to Thomas scoring on his first five field goals.
The visitors had one last gasp, trimming the margin to seven at 40-33, after shutting out the Royals on a 12-0 push. However, the Royals held on to their lead heading to the lockers with a 55-45 halftime score. The men shot 27-for-43 (63.9%) from the field and made six of their eleven three-pointers (54.5%) in the first 20 minutes.
The Hornets got on the board first to start the second, but the Royals eventually put the game away with a 15-6 run midway through the half. A pair of field goals put the visitors within nine, but then EMU rattled off another spurt, this time 15-5, over a span of four minutes to lead 85-68 with exactly nine minutes remaining.
The men didn't let the lead below 12 the rest of the way, with the final 28-point margin with their highest scoring win of the season.
The offense led the way with five players scoring in double figures.
Maleke Jones (Charles Town, W.V. / Washington) and Thomas topped the attack with 18 points apiece. The two combined for seven rebounds and ten assists. RaShawn Latimer (Warrenton, Va./Kettle Run) ended with four triples en route to a 16-point performance, also grabbing five rebounds and coming up with four dishes. DJ Hill (Woodbridge. Va. / Hylton) worked inside for his season-best 14 points. Hansen added 11 points and six boards.
Christopher Chaney came off the bench and scored 20 to lead Shenandoah with Jalyn Jarrett adding 17.
Head coach Kirby Dean comments on the team effort of the men's performance: