BRIDGEWATER, Va. – Eastern Mennonite's R.J. Sims connected on a 10-footer with nine seconds left Wednesday night to break a 68-68 tie and the Royals escaped Nininger Hall with a 72-68 victory over the Bridgewater College Eagles in ODAC men's basketball action.
The Royals led by as many as seven points several times in the second half, the last at the 7:03 mark when Andrew Thorne knocked down a 10-footer along the baseline for a 60-53 lead.
The Eagles then responded with an 8-0 run to take a one-point lead. Tavis Stapleton swished a long 3-pointer and Ronnie Thomas followed with 1-of-2 from the foul line to pull the Eagles within three, 60-57, with 6:12 left to play. Thomas added two more foul shots to cut the margin to one and then added a layup following an offensive rebound, giving Bridgewater a 61-60 lead with 4:58 left.
Dajon Daniel hit a layup and 1-of-2 at the line to put the Royals on top 63-61, but Ed Reddick scored the next three points to put the Eagles back up by one, 64-63 with 2:41 to go.
Zach Hunter took a pass from Thomas for a wide-open layup to give the Eagles a three-point lead, but Sims hit from beyond the arc to tie the score at 66-66 with 2:11 still to play.
After the teams traded empty possessions, Thorne stroked a jumper for a 68-66 EMU lead with 1:06 left. Bridgewater responded when Hunter took a pass from Thomas on a set inbounds play for an uncontested layup to tie the game at 68-68 with 43 seconds left.
Owen Longacre missed a 3-pointer for the Royals but Thorne tracked down the loose ball and found Sims who hit the open jumper in the lane to put the Royals on top.
Thomas pushed the ball into the offensive zone but his runner from the left side rattled out and Daniel corralled the rebound for EMU with less than a second left. Daniel then added two foul shots for the final 72-68 margin of victory.
The opening half was a precursor of things to come as the teams battled on even terms at a hectic pace.
EMU's took the biggest lead of the half, 34-27, on David Falk's dunk with 4:33 left. The Eagles then scored the next five points, four by Thomas, to cut the deficit to two, 34-32.
Thorne added two foul shots for the Royals before Thomas made two free throws for the Eagles to keep it a two-point game, 36-34. Longacre scored on a driving layup to put EMU up by four, 38-34, but two foul shots by Reddick trimmed the margin to two, 38-36, at the half.
Reddick posted his second straight double-double as he led the Eagles with 20 points and 12 rebounds. Thomas also had a huge night for the Eagles with 17 points, six rebounds, five assists, three steals and just one turnover in 36 minutes of action. Stapleton also reached double figures with 10 points.
Thorne paced EMU with 18 points, Sims scored 13 and Longacre added 10.
Bridgewater is now 10-8 overall and 4-5 in the ODAC while the Royals improve to 11-7 and 4-5 in conference play.
The Eagles return to action Saturday afternoon when they make the long trek to Emory & Henry for a 2:00 p.m. contest.