BRIDGEWATER, Va. – Randolph College wiped out a 12-point deficit in the final eight minutes Wednesday evening to slip past the Bridgewater Eagles, 65-61, in ODAC men's basketball action.
"This one stings," Bridgewater head coach Don Burgess said. "We're very disappointed with this loss. We saw a lot of positives at the defensive end where I thought we played very well for 35 minutes. We had too many possessions where we played good defense but didn't finish the possession because we didn't control the defensive boards. Randolph made plays down the stretch when they needed to, but we have to learn how to finish games."
The Eagles led by as many as 11 points in the first half, including a 28-17 margin with 3:04 left in the half.
The WildCats, however, closed the half with an 11-2 run to trail by just two, 30-28, at the break.
The Eagles scored the first four points of the second half on two free throws by Tavis Stapleton and a jumper by Aaron Adams to lead by six, 34-28.
Bridgewater methodically added to its cushion and the Eagles took their biggest lead of the game, 50-38, on a 3-pointer by Thomas with 8:05 left to play.
The WildCats then responded with back-to-back threes from Jason Eddie and Zach Walton to cut the margin to six, 50-44, with 6:02 remaining.
Thomas answered with a three-point play, but two foul shots by Colton Hunt and a dunk by Chris Battaglia made it a five-point game, 53-48, with 4:25 to go.
Bridgewater held its ground and a free throw by Thomas and a layup by Stapleton put the Eagles on top 56-48 with 3:48 on the clock.
A layup by Randolph's Evan Horn cut the lead to six but two free throws by Daniel McClain kept the margin at eight, 58-50, with 2:38 left to play.
Horn hit two foul shots and, after McClain missed a pair from the line, Battaglia made two more foul shots to pull Randolph within four, 58-54, at the 2:16 mark.
After an empty possession by the Eagles, Hunt scored from the paint to make it a one possession game with just 1:30 left.
The Eagles then turned it over and a foul sent Hunt back to the line. The Randolph standout hit the first to make it a one-point game. Hunt missed the second but the Eagles were unable to control the rebound and the Wildcats regained possession.
Following a timeout, Horn made a driving layup to give the Wildcats the lead, 59-58, with 51 seconds left.
Thomas then drew a foul on a drive to basket and the junior guard hit both free throws to put the Eagles back on top by one with 42 seconds left.
The Eagles then fouled Hunt and to compound the problem were whistled for a technical, sending the Randolph standout to the line for four free throws. The Eagles got a break when Hunt missed the first two, but he knocked down the next two for a 61-60 lead with 29 seconds remaining.
Bridgewater worked the ball inside to Ed Reddick on its next possession and Reddick was fouled with 15 seconds left. Reddick hit the first foul shot to tie the score, but missed the second with Corey Brown controlling the rebound for Randolph.
Randolph knocked down the key shot with four seconds left when Battaglia drained a 15-footer for a 63-61 lead.
The Eagles tried to throw the inbound pass to midcourt, but turned the ball over when Thomas stepped on the sideline after catching the pass. Battaglia added two free throws with a second left for the final margin of victory.
Thomas played a stellar game for the Eagles, finishing with 22 points, four rebounds and four assists. Adams added 11 points for the Eagles.
"Ronnie played another outstanding game," Burgess said. "He's a kid who has put in the time working in the gym to become a better basketball player."
Hunt continued his early-season torrid scoring pace with 28 points while also pulling down a game-high 11 rebounds. He entered the game averaging 25 points per game. Battaglia finished with 10 points, all in the final nine minutes of the game.
"Hunt's an All-American caliber player," Burgess said. "Pound-for-pound, he's one of the best players in our conference."
The Eagles, now 3-2 overall and 0-1 in the ODAC return to action Saturday afternoon when they host Emory & Henry at 3:00 p.m.
With the victory, Randolph remained undefeated at 4-0, 1-0 in the conference.