By ROB WITHAM
While the snow fell in Ashland, Randolph-Macon men’s basketball got away to the temporarily drier climate of, of all places, Pennsylvania, competing over the weekend at the Doc Greene Tournament at Juniata College, as the Yellow Jackets continue to prepare for the rigors of Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) play, which returns in January.
After a strong opening round performance, the Yellow Jackets ran out of steam late in the championship contest with the host Juniata Eagles, who improved to 8-0 and ended Randolph-Macon’s six-game winning streak Saturday, pulling away late for a 75-64 win.
In Friday’s opener, Montese Adams led the way with 13 points as the Yellow Jackets used balance scoring to lead the entire game, opening play on a 7-0 run, not allowing a Cougar basket until nearly five minutes into the game. Daniel Noe added 12 points from the bench as Misericordia trailed by five points or more the rest of the first half, and by fifteen at the half after a Corey Bays three-pointer made it 36-21.
The Cougars only trimmed their deficit to single digits twice in the second half, the last on a Brendan Leonard three-pointer with 2:16 to play to cut Randolph-Macon’s lead to 63-54. Grayson Midulla hit four of six free throws down the stretch to secure the victory and a date with host Juniata Saturday in the tournament final.
Against the Eagles, the Yellow Jackets made three of their first four shots from the field to take an early 6-2 lead on Juniata. The first half unfolded as a defensive struggle, putting points at a premium early on, including two and a half minute stretch where both teams went scoreless.
After two free throws by the Eagles tied the game at 13 at 10:56 left in the first half, Buzz Anthony’s basket gave Randolph-Macon the lead back at 15-13. But back to back baskets gave Juniata a 17-15 lead, answered by a three-pointer from Luke Neeley for an 18-17 advantage.
The Eagles retook the lead and was up by as many as four before Korey Turner stole the ball and scored for a 24-23 Yellow Jacket lead. But in the final 4:31 of the half, Juniata seized control again for a 29-28 halftime advantage, Randolph-Macon missing four of their last six shots before intermission.
The Juniata lead early in the second half averaged five points before a Neeley trey, then, two minutes later a Noe three-pointer cut the deficit to just 40-39 with 12:49 left. Noe’s three sparked an 8-0 run as Max Morrow’s three made it 44-40 with 11:09 left. Another Morrow trey gave Randolph-Macon a 54-52 lead at 6:22 left.
It would be their final lead however, as the Eagles finished the game on a 23-10 run. A Midulla jumper with 1:22 left gave Randolph-Macon hope, down just three at 65-62, but a trey from Seth Brewer for Juniata at the one minute mark would prove to be the back breaker as the Eagles held on to win their tournament with a final score not indicative of how close the game actually was.
Noe, who tied his season-high in points in the final with 19, and Midulla, who scored 10 against the Eagles, were both named to the All-Tournament Team.
The Yellow Jackets, now 6-2 overall, but 2-0 in the ODAC, face three more non-conference opponents before league play resumes, beginning Sunday with a trip to Fredericksburg to face the University of Mary Washington. That group of Eagles comes off a 70-66 defeat at the hands of Salisbury over the weekend to move their overall record to 6-3. Mary Washington is 2-2 in Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) play.
Mary Washington is 2-0 against ODAC teams this year, defeating both Eastern Mennonite and Randolph in November. Tip-off is at 2pm at the Anderson Center. After Christmas, the Yellow Jackets host their annual Coaches Classic on December 29th and 30th at Crenshaw Gymnasium.