BY JEFF FALK
ANNVILLE – Don’t panic. It’s OK. Everything is going to be alright.
The Lebanon Valley College men’s basketball team knew there were going to be days like these. The Flying Dutchmen are well aware of the fact that struggle is part of the process.
On Saturday afternoon at Lou Sorrentino Gymnasium, Lebanon Valley learned a lot from a 77-57 lesson administered by Gwynedd Mercy. After opening a 43-27 advantage at the break, the Griffins outscored the Flying Dutchmen 34-30 over the second 20 minutes of action.
With the non-conference result, LVC slipped to 2-3 on the young season. The triumph kept Gwynedd Mercy unbeaten, at 4-0.
“I have no idea how good this team can be,” said Lebanon Valley head coach Brad McAlester. “Long-term, in a couple of years, I think really good. Right now, we’re going with freshmen and sophomores. But if we don’t try to get better, it’s not going to happen. We’ve got to work harder. We’ve got to work together.
“We’ve just got to keep going,” continued McAlester. “We’ve got to keep growing. Everything needs to improve, not just a couple of aspects of the game. It will. It takes time. It’s hard to be patient with young kids. We keep switching up because we haven’t found those combinations yet.”
The Flying Dutchmen were more competitive early than they were late.
Lebanon Valley led 4-0 two minutes in, thanks to buckets from Jordan Abado and Jeremy Deihm. A couple of charity tosses from senior and Lebanon High product Justin Baker had LVC within 10-8 of the lead, with 14:26 left in the first half.
“They’re a good team,” said McAlester of the Griffins. “They’re one of the better teams in our region. They don’t give you a break. You make a run, and then they make a run.
“We’ve just got to play better, and we’ve got to shoot better,” added McAlester. “We shot 34 percent from the field and it’s very hard to win games that way. We’ve got to start making threes and playing better defense. Defensively, two guys are playing well and three aren’t. We’ve got to continue to get better each day.”
A 12-4 spurt over a five-minute span in the middle of the first half staked Gwynedd Mercy to a 22-12 advantage. Lebanon Valley countered with an 8-2 run made up of a Mason Green three-pointer, a Luis Castillo lay-in and free throws from Bryce Diehl and Joe Wright that pulled the Flying Dutchmen to within 24-20 of the Griffins, 5:36 before intermission
But over the next four minutes, Gwynedd Mercy outscored Lebanon Valley 16-5 to extend its lead to 40-25.
“You need stops,” said McAlester. “And you need to be patient on offense and get good looks. They (the Griffins) took us out of our offense. It’s a matter of confidence.
“We’re just not playing good man-to-man defense,” McAlester added. “We’re not playing together.”
Deihm led LVC in scoring with 12 points and was the only Flying Dutchmen to reach double figures. A total of 15 different Lebanon Valley players saw playing time.
Gwynedd Mercy shot 49 percent from the field and forced 20 Lebanon Valley turnovers. The Griffins outscored the Flying Dutchmen 33-6 from three-point land.
“We got it back down to 13,” said McAlester of the early moments of the second half. “But at that point I wanted (point guard, Zach) Tucker out because he had a bad ankle. I didn’t know if we were going to make the run we needed.”
An Abado trey, a lay-up by Baker and a couple of foul shots from Trevor Covey got LVC to within 47-34 of the lead, three minutes into the second half. But Gwynedd Mercy pieced together a 15-8 burst over the next six minutes to put the outcome out of reach.
“We’re very young,” said McAlester. “I have 13 freshmen and sophomores. It can’t always be wins and losses. It’s who you play and how you play. That team (Gwynedd Mercy) is good. We had to play close to a perfect game to be in it.
“Our two games in the (Rinso Marquette) tournament we played well,” McAlester continued. “We played defense.”