MIDDLETOWN, Pa. – Penn State Harrisburg's postseason chances took a big hit Wednesday night, Feb. 13 when the Lions dropped a hard-fought contest to North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) South Division rival Penn State Berks. The visitors' big men got to the rim early and often and left the Capital Union Building with a 97-91 victory.
Junior Will Doyle (Franklin, Va. / Tidewater Academy) was lights out from beyond the arc as he matched his career-high for three-pointers made by sinking seven on his way to a game-high 26-points but it was not enough.
Berks' duo of Tom Smith and Jeff Schmidt combined for 35 points, nearly all of which came in the paint. Darren Major scored a team-high 25 points for the visiting Lions.
Penn State Harrisburg sophomore big man Kevin Icker (Scranton, Pa. / Scranton Prep) had the hot hand in the early going and scored the home team's first four points while Doyle connected from downtown on back-to-back possessions to put the Lions up 12-9 at the 13:49 mark.
The Blue & White grabbed its biggest lead of the night when senior captain Jordan Gatchell (Manheim, Pa. / Manheim Central) buried a three-ball to put Harrisburg up 25-19 with 7:08 left in the first half.
The visitors weren't finished, however. Berks used an 11-4 run over the next two and a half minutes to grab its first lead since the game's opening moments. The opposing Lions went hard to the hole, using five layups and five free throws to take a 41-35 advantage into the break.
Penn State Harrisburg shot its way back into the game after halftime thanks to two consecutive three-pointers from Doyle and Gatchell that cut the deficit to three points just a little more than a minute into the second half.
A few possessions later, a Smith layup pushed the Berks' lead to ten, its largest of the night to that point, with 16:09 remaining in regulation.
But Harrisburg showed heart and refused to roll over.
Doyle hit another three. Senior Thristan Lundy (Philadelphia, Pa. / Samuel Fels) added layups on the Blue & White's next two possessions and sophomore Alberto De Los Santos (Enola, Pa. / East Pennsboro) connected from beyond the arc to bring the Lions to within two points at 57-55 at the 14:06 mark.
Harrisburg finally made it all the way back and reclaimed the lead when Gatchell hit a jumper to put his squad up 60-59 with 12:51 left to play.
From there, Berks took control. The visitors went on an 18-7 run over the next three and a half minutes and grabbed their first double-digit advantage of the second half. During a 5:10 stretch midway through the period, Berks scored on ten consecutive possessions.
A Smith layup with 4:03 left in regulation gave the opposing Lions their largest lead of the game at 89-78. Penn State Harrisburg cut the deficit to eight on three separate occasions and brought the margin to just six points with 14 seconds remaining but it was too little too late.
Both teams shot the ball well. Berks shot 57.4 percent from the field and 58.3 percent from three-point land while Harrisburg shot 48.5 percent from the field and 48.1 percent from downtown. As has become a trend this season, the home team was outrebounded 34-22. The visitors managed 17 second chance points compared to just four for Harrisburg.
De Los Santos finished with 15 tallies and five assists while Gatchell added nine and a game-high seven assists. Lundy and freshman Arick Sodini (Manalapan, N.J. / St. John Vianney) each netted ten and Lundy collected a team-high nine rebounds.
The loss dropped Harrisburg to 10-14 overall and 7-6 in league play. The Lions now need help from the north if their season is to continue past this weekend. If the Blue & White sew up third place in the South Division this weekend and Wells defeats Keuka this Saturday, Penn State Harrisburg will travel for a NEAC tournament first-round contest next week. If Keuka is victorious, Harrisburg stays home.
The Lions season finale takes place this Saturday, Feb. 16 when they host another conference rival in division-leading Penn State Abington. Harrisburg fell to Abington in a double-overtime thriller a few weeks back and will look to avenge that loss. Saturday is also Senior Day. Gatchell and Lundy will be honored before the game.