SELINSGROVE, Pa. – Prior to last season, Penn State Harrisburg had never beaten Susquehanna.
A lot has changed these past 12 months.
With the team's 72-67 road victory on Tuesday night, Nov. 27, the Lions have now topped the Crusaders each of the last two times the programs faced off. All five Blue and White starters reached double-digits and sophomore Kevin Icker (Scranton, Pa. / Scranton Prep) added nine off the bench to improve Harrisburg's record to .500 on the year.
In a highly competitive contest that saw neither team lead by more than six points, the Lions got early contributions from veterans Jordan Gatchell (Manheim, Pa. / Manheim Central), Will Doyle (Franklin, Va. / Tidewater Academy) and Julius Brown (McComb, Miss. / McComb), as well as a newcomer in freshman Arick Sodini (Manalapan, N.J. / St. John Vianney).
Gatchell netted Penn State Harrisburg's first points of the night while Brown converted an old-fashioned three-point play less than three minutes into the first half.
Doyle's layup tied the game at nine at the 16:07 mark and Sodini scored four of the Lions' first 12 points.
With his team trailing, sophomore Alberto De Los Santos (Enola, Pa. / East Pennsboro) got into the scoring act late in the half and his pair of free throws closed the gap to two points with 3:05 left until the break.
The Blue and White trailed 32-30 at halftime and needed a few minutes to get going in the second.
Back-to-back three-balls by Brown and De Los Santos cut the deficit to 41-39 and the Lions took their first lead of the half when Gatchell knocked down a jumper to make it 46-45 with 12:25 remaining.
The Crusaders proved tough all night long and regained the advantage when Tony Seldon laid one in to make it 60-55 with 6:08 left in the game.
A minute passed, the visitors struggled to score and Penn State Harrisburg Head Coach Mike Gaffey burned a crucial timeout. Whatever he said in the huddle got through to his players as his team put together a game-changing run moments later.
Over the next 3:08, the Lions outscored the home team 9-0 and took control of the contest. Gatchell and Doyle cut into the Crusaders' lead, Icker's jump shot gave the Blue and White the advantage and De Los Santos stretched it with a jumper from behind-the-arc that made it 66-60 Harrisburg with 1:54 left on the clock.
The home team had no choice but to foul down the stretch and Gatchell and De Los Santos converted six-straight foul shots in crunch time to seal the Lions' second win of 2012.
The two teams split the season series last December with the Crusaders winning the first matchup and Harrisburg returning the favor two weeks later. There will be no rematch this winter. The Lions latest victory gives them bragging rights over Susquehanna for at least another year.
Doyle turned-in another strong all-around effort in a game that saw 11 lead changes. The dynamic junior went 5-6 from the field and netted 13 points, assisted on eight buckets and grabbed six rebounds.
Gatchell and De Los Santos scored a game-high 15 points apiece with the former pulling-in three boards and swiping two steals.
Brown dropped ten on the Crusaders, grabbed three rebounds and dished-out three assists. Sodini added ten tallies in just 17 minutes of work.
Icker was impressive off the bench, collecting a game-high eight rebounds in addition to his point total. He also blocked two shots.
After starting the season with four-straight road games, Penn State Harrisburg finally gets to play in front of its hometown faithful this Thursday, Nov. 29. The Lions host soon-to-be annual foe Wesley from the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) in their home opener at the Capital Union Building at 7 p.m.