In a rivalry game full of 13 lead changes, EMU's last-minute charge came up short in a 72-67 loss to Bridgewater Monday night in Yoder Arena.
The game was essentially an early season friendly, as the two schools scheduled the non-conference contest after they were only pitted for one meeting in this year's unbalanced ODAC schedule. They will meet again on January 29 in Bridgewater.
Most of the first period was a low-scoring, one-possession battle until Tim Jones (Forestville, Md./Central) popped a jumper for a 25-19 margin with 2:58 left in the half. Bridgewater landed a quick 6-0 punch to tie the score, but reserve Chris Simmons (Culpeper, Va./Culpeper County) scored the final five points of the half to send EMU into the intermission with some momentum, leading 33-28.
Mizz Nyagwegwe (Norristown, Pa./Dock Mennonite Academy) drained a triple on the first possession of the second, capping an 8-0 run for the Runnin Royals' biggest lead of the night at 36-28.
But the men hit a cold spell from the floor and BC capitalized with a 9-0 run to flip in front, 41-40. The Eagles maintained the small edge until a 7-0 spurt gave the visitors their largest lead at 63-54 with 5:18 to play.
Eastern Mennonite stepped up their defense and scored the next five points, capped by a three pointer from Deion Harwood (Goochland, Va./Goochland) to get them within 63-59. BC scored four straight, but the Royals kept running.
Nyagwegwe's lay-in after a steal from Jones shaved the margin to 69-63 with 58 seconds remaining. After the Eagles missed a pair of free throws, Tie Evans (Henrico, Va./Steward School) buried a three pointer in front of his Rowdy Royal schoolmates and added a free throw to convert a four-point play with 22 ticks left. The huge play got EMU within 69-67.
The Royals put the pressure on and nearly forced an out of bounds call, only to see a quick pass ahead turn into a bucket for a crippling turn of events. Jones missed a contested three pointer with nine seconds left and BC added one more free throw for the final margin.
Jones led EMU with 19 points, including a 7-for-8 performance at the free throw line. He also dished out a season high six assists with no turnovers. As the team, the Royals committed only nine turnovers and were +4 in turnover margin.
Harwood continued his deadly shooting from long range, as the freshman hit 5-of-11 three and scored a career high 17. He is shooting 8-18 from outside over EMU's last two games. Nyagwegwe added a trio of threes and scored 12.
Jamel Howard (Leesburg, Va./Tuscarora) returned from a three-game absence and grabbed a career high eight rebounds. Simmons earned more playing time with a solid seven-rebound, six-point effort.
Chandler Murray led Bridgewater with 27 points and nine rebounds. Davrion Greer added 20 points and eight rebounds.
The two teams were nearly identical in shooting percentages, with Bridgewater making the difference by grabbing 17 offensive rebounds for a +13 rebounding margin.
The Runnin Royals stay at home for a big ODAC opener on Saturday, hosting preseason favorite Guilford College. Game time is 2:00pm in Yoder Arena. The Quakers were ranked No. 19 in the preseason national poll.