BY JEFF FALK
ANNVILLE – Joe Meehan possesses the rare ability to make others around him better. And when those others aren’t around, Meehan has the skills to do it himself.
On Wednesday night at LVC Gymnasium, the Lebanon Valley College men’s basketball team’s senior point guard and leader shouldered more than his usual burden, with an integral teammate nursing an injury. Meehan poured in 30 points, dished out seven ‘dimes’, came up with seven steals and led the Flying Dutchmen to a 76-65 non-conference win over Lancaster Bible College.
With junior big man and second-leading scorer Danny Brooks watching from the bench, Meehan went 12-for22 from the field, but just six-for-13 from the charity stripe, as LVC improved to 6-3 on the campaign. Lancaster Bible plummeted to 0-6.
“He stepped up,” said Lebanon Valley head coach Brad McAlester of Meehan. “We just have to get him to work on his foul shots. But he played inspired, hard and took it upon himself. He hit some nice jumpers along the way.”
“He’s been scoring a lot for us,” said Meehan of Brooks, “so there’s a scoring void that had to be filled. But I just want to win.
“It’s (his role) definitely making plays and trying to lead the team to wins,” Meehan continued. “That’s the biggest thing. Just doing what I need to do help the team win. Whether it’s taking charges or hopefully making four shots.”
The final score was not indicative of how much a struggle the game and LBC was for the Flying Dutchmen. Lebanon Valley only led 66-63 with 3:11 to go.
But it was at that point that Lebanon Valley notched eight unanswered points to finally pull away. Meehan was responsbile for three of those points, as was Jordan Stewart, while Cameron Prince contributed a lay-in.
“Sure it was a struggle,” said McAlester. “It’s always a struggle, whether you win by 30 points or ten. They’re (the Chargers) tough kids. And it was our third game in five days. We have finals coming up, and other stuff going on.
“We’re 6-3 right now,” McAlester continued. “We want to just keep progressing. I think we can still get better. We’re 6-3, but we could be 7-2.”
Stewart complemented Meehan with a dozen points and nine rebounds. Lebanon Valley shot a blistering 53 percent from the field, but without Brooks was out rebounded by seven.
“We started off not too bad and we played good defense early,” said Meehan. “But we had a little bit of a letdown and let them come back at halftime. We just grinded it out at the end and got the stops we needed.
“I’d say we were on a little bit of a high horse after the five-game win streak,” continued Meehan. “We’re still finding ourselves defensively, and then Brooks got hurt. We’ve just got to keep on working on our defense, because our offense is good enough.”
The Chargers registered the initial seven points of the second half to take their biggest lead of the night, 41-38 with 17:28 to play. But Lebanon Valley responded with a 6-0 run – five of which came from Meehan – to regain the lead at 44-41.
The Flying Dutchmen would never trail after that.
“Our defensive effort at times has been better,” said McAlester. “This is not a good defensive team. It’s not a terrible one, but we’ve been better.”
“I struggled from the foul line, I know that,” said Meehan. “That’s all I’m worried about. Overall I played well and I got some help from my teammates. That’s what we need to do when Brooks is out. We’ve got to be that hustle team because we’re not very big.
“Last year, I shot 73 percent from the foul line,” Meehan added. “It’s just a little bit of a struggle early this year. I’ve just got to get into the gym and stay after practice. I’ve got to find that confidence to get them to go in.”
Lebanon Valley tallied the final five points of the first half to take a 38-34 margin to the locker room. Stewart’s three-point field goal beat the buzzer, after Meehan had stuck a jumper.
“It’s a chance to get better,” said McAlester of the non-conference contest. “It could help our ECAC standings at the end of the season. And it could help our regional rankings. They’re important.”
“Obviously the teams in the league scout a little more,” said Meehan. “We knew they (the Chargers) were on a little bit of a losing streak, but we had to come out. We did what we needed to do at the end.”
The Flying Dutchmen recorded nine of the game’s first 11 points, and LVC assumed a 20-8 bulge on a lay-up from David Corbin, 11:19 before halftime. But over the next six minutes, the Chargers outscored Lebanon Valley 21-8 to go up 29-28.
“He’s walking full speed right now,” said McAlester of Brooks’ calf injury. “It’s (when he plays) going to be his call. We don’t want to hurt him.”