MIDDLETOWN, Pa. – You could say it was a trap game. You could label it a letdown. You can call it whatever you want. No matter the terminology you choose, it's become apparent that Penn State Harrisburg's 82-73 upset loss at the hands of Cazenovia on Saturday, Feb. 2 is the latest in a line of disappointing losses in which the Lions failed to put away their opponent down the stretch.
The Lions jumped out to a 21-7 lead midway through the first half but the Wildcats cut the deficit to seven at the break. The Blue & White stretched its advantage to ten with 15 minutes remaining in regulation but the visitors used a 40-21 run to finish the game and pick up just their sixth win of the season.
In the team's losses to North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) opponents Wells, SUNY Cobleskill and Penn State Abington earlier this season, Harrisburg had a lead of at least five points with less than nine minutes to play in each contest.
The most recent defeat effectively ended Penn State Harrisburg's chances of repeating as NEAC South Division champions. With a 6-4 record in league play, the Lions sit third in the division standings and will need to finish strong if they plan on playing in the conference's postseason tournament at the end of this month.
Senior captain Jordan Gatchell (Manheim, Pa. / Manheim Central) battled through illness to score a team-high 17 points in addition to racking up five rebounds and four steals. Sophomore sharpshooter Ethan Strayer (East Petersburg, Pa. / Hempfield) was deadly from downtown, flushing five three-balls on his way to a season-high 17 points.
Senior Thristan Lundy (Philadelphia, Pa. / Samuel Fels) was the only on Harrisburg player to reach the double-digit point mark with 12. He also collected a team-high seven rebounds. Junior Will Doyle (Franklin, Va. / Tidewater Academy) dished-out a team-best nine assists.
Cazenovia's Matt Perry netted a game-high 21 points. The Wildcats' Meech Drayton and Anthony Wilkerson combined for 37 tallies off the bench.
The Lions forced eight more turnovers than the visitors but Cazenovia scored 31 points off its extra possessions compared to the ten points Harrisburg netted off turnovers. The Wildcats also scored 16 second chance points while the Blue & White managed just six.
A Strayer three-pointer put the Lions up 26-14 with 8:31 left in the first half. Wilkerson's layup with 53 seconds remaining before the break cut the Wildcats' deficit to four points.
A Lundy layup four and half minutes into the second half made it 52-42 Harrisburg but Perry's jumper from beyond the arc tied the game at 61 with 8:07 left to play. A Perry layup a minute later gave Cazenovia its first lead of the afternoon at 63-61.
Two more three-balls from Strayer reclaimed the advantage for the home team at 68-63 with 5:53 remaining but the Wildcats scored the game's next seven points.
Freshman Arick Sodini (Manalapan, N.J. / St. John Vianney) converted a layup to knot the score at 70-all with 3:14 left in regulation. From there, the Lions went cold down the stretch while the visitors scored eight-straight to put the game on ice.