HUNTINGDON, Pa.- The Juniata men's basketball team made several crucial plays late to earn a hard-fought 71-65 victory over Houghton in the 28th Doc Greene Tournament semifinal Friday evening inside Memorial Gymnasium.
Cameron Keck (Waynesboro, Pa. / Waynesboro) scored the first points of the game when he pumped faked to get the defender in the air, took one dribble to his left and drilled a three before the shot clock expired to make it 3-0 early. A quick flurry from the Highlanders made it 7-3 prior to Marcus Hall (York, Pa. / Trinity)converting from the midrange on the right side off a pass from Kohl Bernarding (Cochranton, Pa. / Cochranton H.S.). Bernarding rattled home a jumper from the left elbow which made it 10-7.
A few minutes later, Zach Engle (Millheim, Pa. / Penns Valley) found Nate DaCanal (Johnsonburg, Pa. / Elk County Catholic) on the opposite wing for a three to give Juniata the lead back at 13-12. Houghton answered with a three and Engle grabbed an offensive rebound while surrounded by purple jerseys and laid it in off the glass to make it 15-15. The Highlanders surged ahead over the next couple minutes as they led 27-18 with just over six minutes to go in the half.
DaCanal found Nathan Markey (York, Pa. / Central York) in the opposite corner off an inbounds pass and he drilled the three. On the next offensive possession, Keck gave his defender floor seats with a jab step and then drilled a deep three to bring the Eagles within three. Markey drew a charge to get JC the ball back, and Hall sliced to the rim and laid it in while being fouled. He missed the foul shot, but Markey corralled the rebound. DaCanal converted a jumper off a pass from Engle to make it 28-27. The teams traded buckets down the stretch, as the Highlanders tying the score at 36-36 with two free throws with 13 seconds left on the clock. John Kelly (Philadelphia, Pa. / Roman Catholic High School) appeared to have tipped in a shot right at the buzzer, but the referees waived it off so the teams went into the locker room tied at 36.
The second half was just as even as the first, as neither team led by more than four until two free throws put the Highlanders up, 54-49, with seven minutes to go in the game.
The teams traded layups as buckets from Keck and Hall were sandwiched around a Highlander layup. Bernarding's jumper made it 56-55 with a little under five minutes to go.
The Highlanders scored inside again, Hall converted inside and Bernarding canned a three off a pass from Hall to give the Eagles the lead, 60-58. Another Hall bucket in the paint increased the lead to four. Houghton turned the ball over again, and Hall threaded the needle to Kelly for a layup in traffic to push the Eagle lead to six.
The Highlanders got within four on a layup with 71 seconds to go, but a DaCanal jumper and some foul shots from Markey and Hall iced it for the Eagles.
Juniata will take on Johnson and Wales (RI) tomorrow in the Championship Game at 4:00 tomorrow.