HUNTINGDON, Pa.- The Juniata men's basketball team couldn't quite complete their comeback as Susquehanna pulled away late to win, 72-53, Saturday afternoon in Memorial Gymnasium in the first Landmark Conference game of the year.
Nathan Markey (York, Pa. / Central York) drilled a three off a pass out of the post from John Kelly (Philadelphia, Pa. / Roman Catholic High School) to put the Eagles up 3-2 two minutes. The River Hawks scored the next five points to make it 7-3 before Cameron Keck (Waynesboro, Pa. / Waynesboro) stole the ball and scored on a layup and followed by drilling a three off a pass from Kelly to make it 8-7.
Susquehanna opened up a 14-point lead, 21-8, as Juniata went scoreless for over five minutes before Kelly scored on a putback with 9:15 to go in the half.
Trailing by as many as 14, the Eagles didn't go away as they slowly narrowed the deficit to single digits.
Keck scored on a layup and converted two foul shots. Susquehanna answered with a layup before Kelly found Keck for another triple to make it 30-21. The River Hawks scored again before the two switched rolls as Keck found Kelly down low for an easy layup. Juniata forced the visitors to miss, and Nate DaCanal (Johnsonburg, Pa. / Elk County Catholic) found Markey for another three to make it 34-26. Two foul shots from Kelly pulled the Eagles within six.
The Eagles wound up trailing by eight going into the locker room, 38-30.
Susquehanna came racing out to start the second half as they tallied the first nine points of the second half, before a Jake Holsopple (Duncansville, Pa. / Hollidaysburg) lay-in off a feed from DaCanal got JC on the board in the second half. Marcus Hall (York, Pa. / Trinity) split a pair of foul shots, Kohl Bernarding (Cochranton, Pa. / Cochranton H.S.) also split a pair and Markey found Holsopple for another bucket inside.
After Juniata got another stop, DaCanal drove from the right-wing and laid it in off the glass while absorbing contact. Following the foul shot, the Eagles had the deficit to eight, 47-39, with a little under 11 minutes to go in the game.
The teams traded buckets, with Hall splitting a pair of flagrant foul shots after taking a nasty spill going up for a rebound. Markey got to the line and converted both of his to bring the Eagles within seven, 53-46.
The River Hawks scored on a three, Hall scored when Markey found him running ahead of everyone on the break, Susquehanna scored on a step-back jumper and Markey hit a short runner on the right baseline to make it 58-50 with 6:15 remaining. But the Eagles couldn't get any closer as they only scored three more points down the stretch as Susquehanna pulled away.
The Eagles will take on Houghton in the Doc Greene Tournament, Friday at 7:00.