ANNVILLE – Sometimes it’s not about how you play the game. Or where, when or why you won.
Sometimes it’s about who you lose to.
On Saturday afternoon, in the championship game of the 21st annual Rinso Marquette tip-off tournament, the Lebanon Valley College men’s basketball team experienced one of those feel-good losses.The Flying Dutchmen put forth a very game effort during a 72-63 loss to Middlebury, the fourth ranked Division Three team in the country.
Down double-digits late in the first half and at the break, the Flying Dutchmen made two second-half runs at the Panthers. But each Lebanon Valley burst received a response, and LVC couldn’t come up with enough stops or get over the hump.
The outcome made the Flying Dutchmen, a young team still trying to find their way, 1-1 on the young season. Lebanon Valley, which was picked to finish seventh by the Commonwelth Conference coaches after going 12-13 a year ago, had opened its 2012-13 campaign on Friday night with a 66-58 victory over the College of Staten Island.
Middlebury, an outfit out of Vermont, is now 2-0 on the year.
“I don’t think we played that bad,” said Brad McAlester, who’s in his 19th season at the Flying Dutchmen helm. “They’re (the Panthers) good. They have guys who can hurt you. And when you turn the ball over they can hurt you.
“We can take a lot out of it (the loss),” McAlester added. “We’ve still got to get our timing down on offense. Middlebury’s got four guys back. They’ve got their timing down.”
“I think the season’s going to be good,” said Flying Dutchmen senior big man Danny Brooks. “We have confidence. We know we can do it, it’s just a matter of doing it.
“We’re just starting to jell,” continued Brooks. “We all like to pass the ball around and play together. I think each game we’re going to get a little better.”
Facing a 14-point deficit early in the second half, Lebanon Valley closed to 42-39 on two free throws from Joey Giangiobbe with 13:09 to play. Then four minutes later, a lay-in by sophomore guard Kevin Agnew drew the Flying Dutchmen to within 48-45.
But over the next six minutes of action, the Panthers outscored LVC 16-7 to open a 64-52 margin with 3:37 left.
“We cut it to three and we got tired,” said McAlester. “And then we started missing our foul shots. We just didn’t score. They’ve got 6-6 and 6-7 coming off the bench. There’s not drop off there.
“I actually thought we played better (than in Friday night’s win),” McAlester continued. “We played aggressive. We played harder. But this team doesn’t have the shooting to go through dry spells.”
“I’ve got a little bit of a back thing,” said Brooks. “It just bugs me until I get going. I haven’t been able to practice much, so I’ve just got to limit my minutes because I’m a little bit out of shape. But even with an injury, when you have a bad game, you’ve got to come back and have a good game.”
Against perhaps some of the toughest competition he’s ever faced, Brooks enjoyed a career game,with 30 points and 13 rebounds. For his efforts, Brooks, who made 13 of 19 field goal attempts, was named to the all-tournament team along with Agnew, the star of Friday night’s win. Giangiobbe collected ten LVC points.
Thirty-one of Middlebury’s total points came from bench players. The Panthers outscored the Flying Dutchmen 27-6 from beyond the arc. Lebanon Valley partially offset 18 turnovers with a 42-26 advantage in the rebounding department.
“He played great,” said McAlester of Brooks. “He’s got those little spin moves. He doesn’t give up.
“He has a little bit of a back strain,” added McAlester. “But he’s smart about it. He’ll let me know how healthy he is in practice. I think after yesterday (Friday) he wanted to prove a point. He wanted to prove he’s as good as they (the Panthers) are.”
“It just jumps up your confidence,” said Brooks. “I know I can score against anyone in Division Three. To be able to do it against that size proves that I can still ball.
“I’m anxious to be a leader, and to be clutch,” continued Brooks. “But I don’t have to score every point. A lot of teams are going to throw double and triple teams at me, and I’ve just got to kick it out. I’ve just got to be a leader and get my guys going.”
With Brooks netting his team’s first ten points, Lebanon Valley enjoyed a number of early one-point edges. But Middlebury outscored the Flying Dutchmen 15-4 over the last 5:55 of the first half to take a 32-22 advantage to the break.
Then the Panthers tallied the first two baskets of the second stanza to open their lead to 14 points.
“We didn’t shoot the ball all that well,” said McAlester. “But we’re going to work on that. We’ve still got a couple of guys to come off the bench. We’ve got to figure out how to get Kevin more shots. And Matt O’Brien can shoot too.
“You want to see who steps up in games,” McAlester added. “You’ve got to see how wants to play. But the guys are getting better.
“As a coach, when you’re watching the game, you’re trying to get the whole picture. How we’re playing defense. Offensively, I’m looking for timing things. Timing is important. I tell those guys all the time, ‘Watch the NBA. It’s all timing.'”