BY JEFF FALK
ANNVILLE – The peak is in sight. The summit has come into view. But all that means for the Lebanon Valley College men’s basketball team is that the climb is about to become much steeper.
On Wednesday night inside Lou Sorrentino Gymnasium, the Flying Dutchmen’s season-long journey became just a little more arduous, thanks to a 91-78 home loss to Widener. While its defense was spotty throughout, it was the offense which abandoned LVC during crunch time.
It was a meaningful late-season loss for a Flying Dutchmen squad which has been pointing to this year for quite some time. The result snapped Lebanon Valley’s three-game win streak and dropped it to 14-7 overall and 8-4 in the Commonwealth Conference.
With four regular-season games to go, the Flying Dutchmen are tied for second place in the conference and appear to be in pretty good shape to qualify for the league’s playoffs. Lebanon Valley is now 8-3 at home and has surrendered more than 90 points on four different occasions this year.
The triumph pushed Widener to 11-9 on the winter and 4-7 in the circuit. Back on November 29th, the Flying Dutchmen defeated The Pride 66-61 in Chester.
“The ultimate goal is to make the playoffs, and go from there,” said Lebanon Valley head coach Brad McAlester. “That’s the goal every year. Some years it’s more realistic than others.
“We’d like to finish second to get a home playoff game,” continued McAlester. “You don’t want to have to go play on the road, even though we’ve played better on the road than we have at home, for whatever reason.”
After Flying Dutchman Andrew Eberhart tipped in an offensive rebound to tie the score at 70 with 5:58 to go, Widener scored the next 12 points over the next three minutes. The Pride also pieced together a subsequent 7-0 burst to open a 91-75 bulge.
“We didn’t play defense,” said McAlester of the stretch run. “They (The Pride) scored every time they had the ball. We didn’t play any team defense. And they got all the loose balls.
“We’ve been doing well defensively,” McAlester continued. “Some teams get hot some nights. We didn’t hold them. They started playing well.”
The Flying Dutchmen trailed for most of the first half, but they came out after halftime and appeared ready to take control of the outcome.
Lebanon Valley used an 11-4 run to turn a 46-45 deficit into a 56-50 advantage. Chris Anderson had four points during the burst and Sam Light a three-pointer, while Will Boccanafusco started it with a lay-up and Andy Orr capped it with a pair of free throws.
“It was another opportunity, another game,” said McAlester. “Every game is important at this time of the year. We’re 14-7 and tied for second place, that’s not bad.
“I’m just not pleased today,” added McAlester. “But I’m pleased overall. Today we just played OK. They (The Pride) caught fire and we couldn’t catch up. They (his players) work hard. They’re together. They like each other.”
Courtesy of ten-for-ten foul shooting, Light led Lebanon Valley with 27 points. Orr contributed 20 points and 15 rebounds to the Flying Dutchmen cause.
Widener shot a blistering 56 percent from the floor. The Flying Dutchmen out rebounded The Pride 40-29, but were guilty of 16 turnovers.
“We didn’t play well,” said McAlester. “We had too many turnovers and we couldn’t stop them.
“We rushed too much on offense,” McAlester added. “We were too quick to shoot. We didn’t have any patience. We didn’t get easy baskets. It was one of those games. We’ve got to wipe it away and get back to work tomorrow.”
The Pride notched 19 of the game’s first 28 points and led 37-29 six minutes before the break.
But thanks to a technical foul on Widener, Lebanon Valley notched the final eight points of the first half to take the slimmest of leads to the locker room. Light accounted for all of those points, with a jumper and six foul shots.
“We need to defend,” said McAlester. “We need to play defense. We hold them (The Pride) to 45 (percent shooting from the field), we win. It’s a team thing. Team defense and individual defense.”
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