BY JEFF FALK
ANNVILLE – Defensive rebound ratios. Off-hand three-point shooting percentages. Turnover-to-assist-to-timeout differentials.
In these days of over analysis, sometimes it just comes down to who makes the most plays when the game is on the line. And who wants it more.
On Wednesday evening at the LVC Gymnasium, the Lebanon Valley College men’s basketball team performed at peak efficiency when the lights shone brightest. The Flying Dutchmen erased a late nine-point deficit then gutted out an 84-82 overtime triumph over Messiah.
After trailing 66-57 with less than six minutes left in regulation, LVC’s Cameron Prince sent the game to overtime with a three-point bomb with nine seconds to go. The Flying Dutchmen held Messiah without a point for the first 2:15 of the five-minute extra period and never trailed again.
With the win, Lebanon Valley improved to 5-1 on the campaign and 1-0 in the Commonwealth Conference. Messiah slid to 2-3 on the year and 0-1 in the conference.
“It was a typical league game,” said Lebanon Valley head coach Brad McAlester. “It could’ve gone either way at the end. I think we were fortunate to win it.
“A lot of times, because we all know each other so well, we know who to defend,” McAlester added. “And some of the guys step up. Tonight it was Cameron.”
“The ball was just going in the basket,” said Prince. “My role is just to help my team win. We all stepped up as a team.”
Prince was on the receiving end of a Joe Meehan drive-and-kick, and he buried his only three-point attempt of the evening, from the left wing to tie the game at 75. In OT, LVC’s Kevin Agnew, the smallest player on the floor, sneaked inside the trees for a putback three-point play that gave his team an 81-79 edge with 46 ticks left.
Then after three free throws from Prince, Lebanon Valley survived Messiah’s last-ditch attempt to send the contest into a second overtime.
“My guy Joe got me open and I was able to sink it,” said Prince. “You’ve got to take them where you get them. The free throws got me going and my teammates got me the ball.”
“Cam’s been playing pretty good,” said McAlester. “And he makes his foul shots.”
Trailing 72-65 with 2:35 of regulation remaining, the Flying Dutchmen got a lay-up and two free throws from Danny Brooks and a charity toss out of Jordan Stewart to move to within two points of Messiah. Two foul shots by Prince made it a 73-72 game with 22 seconds left in the second half.
“Five-and-one, yeah I’ll take it,” said McAlester. “You’ve got to win your league home games and try to steal one or two on the road. What I’m really impressed by is how someone different always seems to step up for us.”
Prince’s career-high 23 points led a balanced LVC attack that also featured 18 points and six assists from Meehan. Brooks also tallied 18, while Jordan Stewart contributed 12 points and 10 boards.
Lebanon Valley went 28-for-39 at the charity stripe and outscored the Falcons by 17 points there.
“That feels awesome,” said Prince of LVC’s 5-1 start. “It’s been a great team effort. Everyone’s doing it. We just want to take it to the top, and as far as we can go. We want to do the best we can.”
The first half featured eight lead changes and six ties, and ended with Messiah up 34-33. Nine minutes into it, Lebanon Valley had assumed a 20-13 advantage on a Joey Giangiobbe lay-in. But the Falcons responded with an 11-4 run to tie it at 24.
“They can really shoot the ball,” said McAlester of a Falcon club that knocked down 11 three-pointers. “When they get in rhythm they’re tough to defend. At the beginning, we didn’t defend very well. But after awhile we did, because we switched everything.”