WILLIAM PENN HOLDS OFF #17 BENEDICTINE 93-90 IN NAIA GAME OF THE WEEK

William Penn Holds Off #17 Benedictine 93-90 in NAIA Game of the Week

Oskaloosa–Thursday’s NAIA Division I Game of the Week between the fourth-ranked Statesmen men’s basketball team and #17 Benedictine lived up to its billing and them some as William Penn slipped past the Ravens 93-90 in overtime.

The top-25 Heart of America Athletic Conference matchup featured 10 ties and 11 lead changes and was not settled until the final buzzer sounded.  With its win and Grand View’s loss to Mount Mercy, William Penn (14-2, 10-2 Heart) takes over sole possession of first place in the league.

The game was tied at 30 with three minutes to go until break, but the Ravens (10-6, 7-5 Heart) finished strong to lead 36-31 at halftime.

The Statesmen deficit was eight points before they found their footing, eventually going ahead by a game-high 10 points at 64-54 with seven minutes on the clock.  The hosts seemed in control, but looks were definitely deceiving as BC went on a 14-5 run to draw within one inside of three minutes remaining.  The Ravens never recaptured the advantage in the second stanza, but were always within striking distance.

A big trifecta from Corbin Medley (Jr., Rogersville, Mo., General Accounting) with 30 seconds left allowed the home crowd to exhale for a moment with WPU up 81-77.  Unfortunately, BC’s Andre Yates was a determined, one-man wrecking crew and answered with his own long ball.

A pair of Lionel Ellison (Sr., New Orleans, La., Kinesiology) free throws extended the edge back to three, but the game was obviously destined for extra play.  Yates’ three-pointer on the other end failed to fall, but teammate Thomas O’Connor was awarded another chance and buried his shot from the corner as the horn went off to force overtime.

WPU pulled away in the early moments of OT with five of the first six points.  Not to be outdone, Benedictine answered with six straight and had the Statesmen on their heels, down one inside of the final minute.

Ellison then stepped up and added the final two points of his 29-point evening.  Nick Jeffries (Jr., Altoona, Iowa, Exercise Science) finally made his mark in the last two possessions, blocking a BC shot on the opposite end, getting fouled, and draining both charity-strip attempts to make it 93-90 with seven ticks on the clock.

William Penn’s coaching staff wisely chose to implement the fouling strategy, letting Yates dribble to mid-court before fouling him with just two seconds remaining.  At best, the thought was that he would only make two free throws, but his first try actually misfired and then he intentionally missed the second shot.  The ball was tipped out off of a WPU player, though, providing the Ravens one last opportunity to extend the contest, but fortunately O’Connor’s deep heave was well off-line and the hosts survived.

Both squads shot fairly well with BC winning the category 49.2%-47.5%.  The Ravens also fared better on the glass (39-33) and made more three-pointers (10-7).  The Statesmen countered with three fewer turnovers (10-13), which led to a 15-9 margin in points off turnovers.

The difference came at the line, though, as William Penn was 28-for-36 (77.8%), while Benedictine was just 18-for-26 (69.2%).

Ellison was 8-for-11 from the field and posted six assists and two steals, but was one-upped offensively by teammate Jarvis Haywood (Sr., Charlotte, N.C., Business Management) and his 33-point effort.  Haywood highlighted his performance by going a perfect 11-for-11 at the line.

The Statesmen won despite not getting double-double machine Torren Jones (Sr., Chandler, Ariz., Sociology) into the action.  The senior finished the win with only 10 points and five rebounds.

Medley managed eight points, while Charles Knowles (Sr., Chicago, Ill., Physical Education) added five in the victory.

William Penn has now won three-straight overtime games, dating back to last season; Thursday was the squad’s first overtime game of the year.

“The atmosphere in the gym was awesome tonight!” Head Coach John Henry said.  “Our backcourt was amazing and carried us.”

Next Up: Saturday’s game at Missouri Valley has already been postponed due to inclement weather, so the Statesmen will be off until next Wednesday when they travel to Cedar Rapids to face Mount Mercy in Heart action at 7:30 p.m.

Story provided by Wade Steinlage

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