MIDDLETOWN, Pa. – That exhale you hear is a collective sigh of relief being let out by St. Mary's (Md.); a team that escaped Penn State Harrisburg's Capital Union Building with a slim 67-60 victory over a tenacious Lions team that just wouldn't go away on Saturday afternoon, Dec. 7. Trailing by as many as 15 points in the first half, the Blue & White exploded in the second frame and took a took the lead with less than ten minutes left to play. The visitors did enough down the stretch to get out of Middletown with their fifth win of the season, but not before the Lions gave the nation's 12th-ranked team quite a scare.
Senior captain Will Doyle (Franklin, Va. / Tidewater Academy) led all scorers with 20 points, including 12 from three-point land. Junior Joey Farthing (Lancaster, Pa. / Hempfield) played well, adding eight points and game-highs of six rebounds and four steals.
Sophomore Jared Deibler (Middletown, Pa. / Middletown Area) scored the first points of the game and after falling behind 5-2, back-to-back-to-back Farthing buckets put Penn State Harrisburg back on top at the 14:35 mark.
A pair of Doyle free throws gave the Lions their largest lead of the afternoon at 12-8 with 10:08 remaining in the first half.
From there, St. Mary's (Md.) put together a 13-1 run over the next six and a half minutes to claim a 21-13 advantage. A Kenny Stone (Philadelphia, Pa. / Scotland) jump shot cut the deficit to six but the Seahawks ended the half on an 11-4 run and took a 32-19 lead into the break.
But a hard-earned reverse layup from Doyle at the first half buzzer gave the Blue & White some momentum that carried over into the second. Penn State Harrisburg roared out of the break and opened the timeframe with a crucial 13-2 run, culminating with a Stone layup off a pass from freshman Marquese Daniels (Wyncote, Pa. / Philadelphia Electric & Technology Charter) that drew the Lions to within one at 34-33 with 13:37 left to play.
Doyle continued to play the role of Mr. Big Shot when he connected from beyond the arc to tie the score at 38-all at the 11:44 mark and Deibler's layup with 11:20 remaining gave the Lions their first lead since midway through the opening half. Freshman Winton Lyle (Washington, D.C. / Bullis School) knocked down a pair of foul shots to keep the lead in the Lions' corner and junior Alberto De Los Santos (Enola, Pa. / East Pennsboro) converted a layup to keep Penn State Harrisburg's advantage steady at 44-42 with 9:48 left on the clock.
The Seahawks got a huge boost when Nick LaGuerre connected from long-distance to reclaim the advantage for St. Mary's (Md.) on the team's next possession. Doyle answered back with a layup a few minutes later and kept the deficit to a manageable three-point margin but the visitors scored seven-straight and upped their advantage to ten tallies with 2:26 remaining.
Penn State Harrisburg was forced to foul and the Seahawks shot well from the charity stripe down the stretch. Back-to-back Doyle three-balls drew the Lions to within six points with 24 seconds left but eventually the Blue & White ran out of time and the valiant comeback effort fell short.
Deibler netted nine points while Daniels chipped in with eight. Stone added six points and was also strong defensively, blocking three St. Mary's (Md.) shots in a two minute span. Lyle corralled four boards while De Los Santos dished out a team-high four assists to go along with his three steals.
The Lions actually outshot the visitors from the field 45.8 percent to 44.2 percent but St. Mary's (Md.) was better from distance and outshot the Blue & White 43.8 percent to 23.5 percent from beyond the arc. The Seahawks also outrebounded Penn State Harrisburg 30-18.
The loss dropped Penn State Harrisburg to 3-4 overall on the young season and 1-1 in Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) play. After starting the year 1-3, the Lions have steadily improved over their last three outings, defeating Lebanon Valley on Dec. 1, York (Pa.) on Dec. 4 and going toe-to-toe with a St. Mary's (Md.) team that reached the Elite Eight round of the NCAA tournament a year ago.
The Lions next outing comes this Wednesday night, Dec. 11 when they host another CAC opponent in Frostburg State (0-7 overall, 0-2 CAC). Tip-off is set for 8 p.m.
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Photos and video courtesy of Penn State Harrisburg's Victoria Masse and Martika Porr