In an eerie reversal of last year's ODAC Tournament First Round Game, a blocked three pointer at the buzzer cut off EMU's basketball men from making another postseason run.
Host Emory & Henry (17-9), the No. 7 seed in the tourney, out-scored the Runnin Royals by nine in the second half and escaped with the win when Jarris Hendricks got a piece of a potentially game-tying triple from Tim Jones (Forestville, Md./Central). The 60-57 loss ends EMU's year at 10-16.
In the 2018 ODAC Tournament, the Royals erased a 10-point halftime deficit at Bridgewater, surviving with a 70-67 win, keyed by a pair of blocks in the final 10 seconds. Eastern Mennonite went on to upset top-seeded Randolph-Macon in the quarterfinals before losing to eventual champion Emory & Henry in the semifinals, 78-76.
Despite losing both regular season meetings with the Wasps this year, EMU got out to a quick start in Monday's tourney game. Senior Sammy Thomas (Owings, Md./Northern) capped an early 13-2 run, pushing the Royals in front 13-8 nine minutes in.
Travis Clower (Romney, W.V./Hampshire) banged in a three and Thomas scored again for the men's biggest lead of the night at 30-22 shortly before halftime. After an EHC bucket, Xavier McCants (Olney, Md./Sherwood) matched the eight-point margin with a layup, before the Wasps got a late score to trim EMU's lead to 32-26 at halftime.
After Clower scored to open the second half, the Wasps' Daniel Spencer went on a personal 8-0 run to lock up the score at 34-34.
The teams traded one-point leads until a 7-0 jab from the home team bumped them up 48-42. The six-point lead with 10 minutes to play equaled EHC's largest lead of the game.
Then the Royals turned the defense back on, holding the Wasps scoreless for more than five minutes. However, the men managed just enough points of their own to even up the scoreboard at 48-48.
The back-and-forth continued.
Emory & Henry pushed their lead back to four, but Clower got a pair of free throws and then dropped in a long three ball with 1:41 to play, bumping EMU in front, 55-54.
After Clower hushed the home crowd, however, Hendricks answered with a three of his own to flip the Wasps back in front, 57-55, and reignite the King Center Gymnasium.
Tariq Caldwell (Richmond, Va./Lee-Davis) missed a three on EMU's next possession, and Tharon Suggs rolled off a screen and popped a jumper from the elbow to make the margin four with 23 seconds to go.
Jones was fouled away from the hoop and hit both ends of his one-and-one with 16 ticks remaining, and Hendricks only made one of his free throws with seven seconds left to leave it a one possession game. But the 6-4 senior guard came up big for his Wasps by getting enough of Jones' last-second attempt to stave off overtime and end EMU's year.
Eastern Mennonite shot well all night, hitting 24-of-49 shots for 49%. But the men made just 3-of-14 shots from three point range and committed 22 turnovers for a -13 turnover margin. Emory & Henry hit 39% of their shots, making up the difference at the free throw line, going 15-25 compared to 6-6 for EMU.
Clower hit all of the Royals' triples, finishing 3-6 from outside in his final game en route to a game high 17 points. Thomas came in with 10 points and seven rebounds. Jones added eight points.
Caldwell led all players with eight rebounds and Christian Hansen (Manassas Park, Va./Osbourn Park) pulled down six boards.
Spencer led the Wasps with 16 points and five steals. Alic Wynn had 13 points and six rebounds, while Hendricks scored 11 with all three of EHC's blocked shots.