Bluffton 69, Mt. St. Joseph 68
Bluffton rallies from 20-point deficit for 69-68 win over MSJ
By: Aaron Mass, sports information assistant
February 21, 2009
BLUFFTON, Ohio - The Bluffton University men's basketball team finished off the regular season in style as it defeated Mount St. Joseph, 69-68, on February 21, 2009. Although the Beavers had already clinched a first-round home game in the HCAC tournament, Bluffton needed to overcome a 20-point second-half deficit to defeat the Lions, who ended their season with a record of 6-19 and 2-14 in the HCAC. On a day when the Bluffton faithful witnessed five seniors playing their last regular season home game, the 2009 Seniors set the school record for most wins by a class in Bluffton men's basketball history.
This memorable senior class of Colt Cunningham, Justin Rufenacht, Josiah Stober, Aaron Taylor, and Nick Wilson surpassed last year's lone senior (P.J. Juenger) for career wins, with 63. The win also upped Bluffton's record to 15-10 overall, and it finished the regular season with a 9-7 HCAC mark.
Just as it happened against rival Defiance this past Wednesday, junior Josh Eichar's (North Baltimore) layup with 29 seconds left proved to be the game-winner. The Lions overplayed a possible three-ball by Cunningham and freshman Mychal Hill (London/Jonathan Alder) threw a cross-court pass to a wide-open Eichar. The junior made a great shot-fake, and then converted a layup with 29 seconds left to give the Beavers a 69-68 lead they would never relinquish.
On the other end, Wilson took a huge charge that gave the Beavers the possession back. Hill missed the front end of a one-and-one, and the Lions had one last chance for the win. An off-balance 17-foot jumper by MSJ's Travis Huffman was defended well by Hill, and it was way short as the buzzer sounded.
The contest was not the last home game of the seniors' careers, as they will host a first-round home game in the Heartland Conference tournament on Tuesday, February 24, against Anderson University.
Mount jumped out to an early 6-0 lead before Josiah Stober (Spencerville) hit a jumper to get Bluffton on the scoreboard at the 16:53 mark. The Beavers tied the game for the first time at 10 with 12:18 remaining in the first half when Aaron Taylor (Antwerp) converted a putback for two of his career-high 23 points.
Bluffton gave the lead right back, however, as the Lions went on a furious 12-0 run to open up a 34-17 lead with 5:06 left in the half. The splurge was aided by six straight misses by the Beavers.
Bluffton's cold shooting continued as the Lions grabbed a 43-26 halftime advantage. The Mount nailed 17-of-27 from the field (63 percent) compared to just 9-for-32 by the home team (28.1 percent). The visitors had 26 points in the paint as well.
Mount St. Joseph's Kyle McCord drained a three to start the second half, giving the Lions their largest lead of the contest, 46-26, just 20 seconds into the second stanza.
The seniors were not to be denied though, as captain Colt Cunningham (Powell/Worthington Christian) responded with seven straight points to pull the Beavers within 50-34 with 17:12 to go. Another senior, Nick Wilson (Continental), scored on his own offensive rebound, and senior Aaron Taylor followed with five straight points. That surge cut the lead to single digits (50-41) with an eternity still remaining on the clock (14:15). The seniors scored Bluffton's first 21 points of the second period.
A long-ball by Mount's David Lane quieted the crowd and pushed the visitors' lead back to 12 points. Mount held a comfortable lead for the next five minutes until Bluffton made an intense run that began with just under eight minutes left in the ballgame.
A Stober steal led to an old-fashioned three-point play at the other end, cutting the home team's deficit to four points (56-52). The Lions responded with two free throws by Mike Mechler. Cunningham then nailed a mid-range jump shot and Taylor got to the rack again, making it 58-56 with 6:39 remaining.
A Travis Huffman free throw and a jumper made it 61-56 with 5:13 to go and prompted a timeout from Bluffton head coach Guy Neal. Freshman Brent Farley (Lima/Shawnee) got free in the lane for two of his 12 points off the bench. Once again the Bluffton seniors rose to the occasion, as Taylor swatted a shot and then buried a crucial three-ball to knot the game, 61-61, with 3:39 to play. This was the first time the game was tied since 9:30 remained in the first half.
Not wanting to quit just yet, Mount scored five in a row, including a steal and layup by Mitchell Goldschmidt. Wilson assisted another Farley layup, and then Wilson had an impressive backside tip-in to trim the deficit down to one, 66-65, with 1:42 to go in the contest.
Mount St. Joseph's star Michael Romes came back from an injured finger earlier in the half and converted a layup at the other end. Taylor's two free throws once again cut the Mount lead back to one point, 68-67, with 1:10 left. Josh Eichar helped the Beavers get a huge stop as he snared a board and Bluffton called timeout with 42 seconds to play, setting up another exciting finish.
The five seniors played exceptionally well, scoring 55 of Bluffton's 69 points in the game. Aaron Taylor had career highs in both points (23) and rebounds (8). The senior was 6-for-10 from the floor and a perfect 9-of-9 at the charity stripe. Cunningham was next in line with 15 points on a trio of long-balls. Freshman post Brent Farley knocked in 12 points off the bench, and Nick Wilson chipped in 11 points and six boards.
The Lions were led by Michael Romes with 17 point. The junior also had six boards. Travis Huffman tallied 15 points and six assists, and Mike Mechler contributed 12 points.
The Beavers did not shoot well from the floor, hitting on 26-of-60 (43.3 percent) compared to the Lions 26-of-49 (53.1 percent). MSJ turned it over 18 times, six more miscues than the home team.
This contest marked the final one of the season for the College of Mount St. Joseph. The Beavers will host a game in the HCAC tourney for the first time since the 2000-01 season this Tuesday, February 24. The first-round battle with Anderson University, a team that went to overtime with the Beavers twice this season, will tip at 7:30 p.m. in Founders Hall.