ANNVILLE – The frequency of wins for the Lebanon Valley College men’s basketball team this season could be directly correlated to the frequency of ball touches by Danny Brooks. The only thing worse than too many is not enough.
On Tuesday evening, the Flying Dutchmen’s judicious use of their senior big man and captain was the key to their 72-65 triumph over Elizabethtown, in both team’s Commonwealth Conference opener. Of course the other part of the winning equation was the fact that Brooks’ supporting cast stepped up.
For it was the play of sophomore point guard Kevin Agnew, Joey Giangiobbe and especially Matt O’Brien which allowed the Flying Dutchmen to create a couple-possession advantage heading for crunch time. And that’s when Brooks asserted himself with some key buckets to keep the Blue Jays at bay.
Brooks finished with a very efficient 20 points, on seven-for-ten shooting, and 13 rebounds. Meanwhile, O’Brien complemented him with 19 points, while Agnew collected 13 and Giangiobbe threw in ten.
The win pushed Lebanon Valley, which was picked to finish seventh by a preseason poll of the Commonwealth Conference’s coaches, to 2-1 overall and 1-0 in the circuit. The Blue Jays plummeted to 0-3 on the year and 0-1 in the conference.
“Danny only had ten shots,” said Lebanon Valley head coach Brad McAlester. “If we win, that’s enough. But seven-for-ten, that’s pretty good. Against these guys it’s tough. But the other guys have got to make shots. If they do, we win. If they don’t, we lose.
“Danny passes the ball out of the post very well,” McAlester continued. “He sees the floor well. He does all that stuff.”
Though they never totally put the Blue Jays away, the Flying Dutchmen did an admirable job of keeping them at arm’s length down the stretch.
After protecting a five-to-six point margin through most of the second half, Brooks scored inside with 36 seconds remaining to up LVC’s lead to 69-62. Three minutes earlier, it was Brooks’ old-school three-point play which had given the Flying Dutchmen a 67-59 advantage.
And with 6:02 to go, Brooks’ lay-in gave the Flying Dutchmen a 63-57 cushion.
“That’s a great win,” said McAlester. “I thought we did a decent job of controlling the tempo, a lot. There were a couple of times when we had an eight- or nine-point lead and I wish we would have increased it, but they’re a good team.
“We got some big rebounds,” added McAlester. “We had 15 offensive rebounds. We did a good job. We got points off our press, and we got out of it when we should have.”
Down 13-12 seven minutes in, Lebanon Valley embarked on a 19-6 journey to take the lead for good. Two free throws from Brooks gave the Flying Dutchmen a 31-19 lead with 5:31 left in the first half, their biggest of the evening.
“It’s all irrelevant,” said McAlester of the pre-season predictions. “Everybody in the conference can win and everyone in the conference can lose. And we can all win it (the title). You want to be picked in the middle of the pack. We had no expectations. We have our own expectations.
“They (his players) take it personally,” added McAlester. “They want to prove to people that they’re better than that.”
Elizabethtown closed the first half with a 13-6 burst and faced a 37-32 deficit at the break. The Blue Jays pulled to within three points of the Flying Dutchmen on five different occasions in the second half.
“Oh yeah, I’m happy with the way we played,” said McAlester. “You’ve got to win your home games. Because if you lose at home in the conference, you’re behind already.”
Lebanon Valley made 46 percent of its shots from the field. Of E-town’s total point output, 35 were scored by reserves.
“Nineteen points was probably Matt O’Brien’s career best,” said McAlester. “He plays hard, a little out of control, but that’s how he plays.
“Kevin’s (Agnew) good,” McAlester added. “We’ve got to get him more shots. When he’s open, he’s automatic.”