MIDDLETOWN, Pa- Close to 200 fans were in attendance at Penn State Harrisburg's Capital Union Building on Thursday, Dec. 29. Those lucky spectators witnessed Steve Jones (Harrisburg, PA/Harrisburg) turn in the strongest offensive performance in school history in the Lions' 83-75 win over Susquehanna. The speedy junior set a Penn State Harrisburg record in NCAA play with 39 points - a career-high for the ex-Cougar. Jones impressively filled up the rest of his stat sheet with seven rebounds, six assists and five steals. His historic night helped his squad exact revenge for the Lions' close loss to the Crusaders just three weeks ago.
It was evident Jones came to play when he knocked down the game's first bucket from beyond the arc just twenty seconds into the contest. Things remained close until late in the first half when the blue and white used strong defense to create crucial turnovers that led to transition baskets.
Jones dropped 26 on Susquehanna in the first 20 minutes and the Lions managed to gain some breathing room by scoring two buckets in the first half's final minute. Head Coach Mike Gaffey's team took a 40-32 lead into the break.
Maybe the most important aspect of Jones' stellar play was one that wasn't featured in the stats. Susquehanna's Spenser Spencer (Seattle, WA/Lakeside) torched the Lions in the teams' first meeting but thanks to Jones' pesky defense, the senior sharpshooter was kept quiet for most of Thursday's contest. Most importantly, Spencer was nowhere to be found during crunch time thanks to him fouling out with four minutes remaining.
The Crusaders tried to claw their way back into the game in the second half but every time they cut the deficit to single digits, Penn State Harrisburg had an answer and was able to push the lead back to double digits. Trailing by 17 with 16 minutes remaining, Susquehanna made a run and cut it to eight with just under eight minutes to go.
But the Lions controlled the tempo, nursed the lead by making high quality shots and made free throws down the stretch to put the game out of reach and avenge their loss to the Crusaders in the championship game of the King's College tournament in Penn State Harrisburg's most recent outing on Dec 10.
Jordan Gatchell (Manheim, PA/Manheim Central) was strong at the point and netted 16 points on just 5-8 shooting from the field while also gathering five boards. Freshmen guards Alberto De Los Santos (Enola, PA/East Pennsboro) and Amani Glenn (Harrisburg, PA/Central Dauphin East) added eight points apiece while Kenton Alston (Harrisburg, PA/Steel-High) scored six, collected seven rebounds, added four assists and recorded a game-high three blocks. Will Doyle (Franklin, VA/Tidewater Academy) dished out a game-best seven assists to go along with his four points.
The victory improved the Lions to 7-3 (2-0 in North Eastern Athletic Conference play) on the year and was the team's fifth non-conference win of the 2011-2012 campaign. Impressive road wins over strong Division III opponents Elizabethtown, Messiah, King's and now Susquehanna are proof that Penn State Harrisburg's basketball program has arrived.
The Lions will have another chance to prove that they can hang with the best the mid-state has to offer when they host Lebanon Valley in the team's next game on Tuesday, Jan. 3.