ANNVILLE – Do them over and over and over again, and things will become second nature. And when good things come naturally, that’s the onset of consistency.
The Lebanon Valley College men’s basketball team took a step forward in its quest for consistency on Saturday afternoon at the LVC gymnasium. The Flying Dutchmen made better decisions with the basketball and tightened its defense, and the result was a 63-56 triumph over Widener.
Lebanon Valley used a critical 8-0 run in the middle of the second half to forge a lead it would never relinquish, then gutted out a solid, well-earned victory down the stretch. The Flying Dutchmen kept The Pride at bay with some decent half-court execution and by making their free throws.
With the win, the Flying Dutchmen improved to 3-3 on the year and 2-1 in the Commonwealth Conference. Widener fell to 1-4 and 1-1.
“No, we’re not consistent,” said Lebanon Valley head coach Brad McAlester, “but very few teams are. Teams that are, are teams who have a lot of guys back. But we’re looking for that, and from everybody, not just one or two guys.
“I think we have all that stuff (leadership, chemistry, unity),” McAlester continued. “I like (sophomore point guard) Kevin Agnew’s leadership. And I think (Danny) Brooks and (Joey) Giangiobbe are inspirational leaders. The biggest issue we have is doing the right things at the right times. But it’s repetition, repetition, repetition.”
Nursing a 43-42 edge with 10:14 to go, Lebanon Valley held The Pride scoreless over the next three minutes to open a nine-point bulge. Matt O’Brien and Agnew took care of things on the offensive end for the Flying Dutchmen.
O’Brien turned an Agnew assist into a crucial three-point field, after ‘Matty-O’ had knocked down a trio of foul shots seconds before. Agnew got the run started with a pair of charity tosses of his own.
But the Flying Dutchmen weren’t totally out of the woods until Brooks scored on a couple of inside moves at the 3:12 and 1:22 marks, each time pumping the LVC lead back up to six.
“I think we can win these types of games,” said McAlester. “Our inside guys are tough and strong. It wasn’t pretty, but at the end we gutted it out and won it. We’ve just got to keep getting better. I don’t think we’ve given up yet. Our guys aren’t afraid to mix it up.
“Everybody is keying so much on Danny (Brooks),” McAlester added. “Every time he gets the ball you can hear the coach yelling, ‘double, double, double.’ We’ve just got to make sure that Danny doesn’t get frustrated. Our timing isn’t where it needs to be on offense, but we’ll get there.”
O’Brien connected on all nine of his free throw attempts and led Lebanon Valley with 19 points, while Brooks tallied 17 points on seven-of-17 shooting from the field. Giangiobbe netted 12 points by making eight of his nine foul shots, and Agnew dropped in ten.
The Flying Dutchmen offset 35 percent shooting by nailing 26 of their 32 charity tosses. Widener was guilty of 18 turnovers and seven-for-16 foul shooting.
“We’re 2-1, and Messiah is good,” said McAlester of his team’s lone conference setback. “As much as we’ve had tough moments, we lost one game in the conference. Now we’ve got to go on the road and see what we can do.
“We’ve got to play better defensively down the stretch,” McAlester continued. “Down the stretch, I wasn’t pleased with our defense. They (The Pride) scored in ten seconds. Then they scored and we scored.”
The first half featured five ties, the last of which came at 26-26. But Lebanon Valley took a three-point edge to the break thanks to an O’Brien lay-in and a Brooks free throw.
“He’s athletic,” said McAlester of O’Brien. “He can get to the rim. He’s a streaker. He’s showing the player he can be. He almost won the game for us.”
When Brooks converted a two-pointer 1:36 into the second half, LVC had a 31-26 lead. But Widener scored the next five points and created the first of four more deadlocks.
“I don’t think we did well with our decision-making in the first half,” said McAlester. “But we did better in the second half. We had less turnovers in the second half, and that was because of better decision-making.
“I’m pleased that we’re 2-1 in our league,” McAlester added. “Our goal is to get into the playoffs.”