Hornets fall to Eagles on buzzer beater

Shenandoah's Gabriel Gonzalez gets stripped of the ball by Bridgewater's Benaiah Wise during first half action Wednesday night in Winchester. Rich Cooley/Daily

WINCHESTER – Kevin Saylor had never hit a game-winning shot before, but that changed on Wednesday night.

The Bridgewater College freshman nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to lift the Eagles to a 58-55 Old Dominion Athletic Conference victory over Shenandoah University.

“I’ve never felt like that before,” Saylor said. “I’ve never hit a game-winner before, so it was a pretty big moment for me.”

After a timeout, the Eagles got the ball out of bounds with just 1.9 seconds left. Saylor was able to get open from behind the 3-point line and make the shot.

“Honestly, it wasn’t even designed for me. But after they got a little confused on defense, I just got to the open spot and luckily made the shot,” Saylor said.

Shenandoah's Christopher Chaney grabs a loose ball as Bridgewater's Sammy Tyson defends during first half action Wednesday night in Winchester. Rich Cooley/Daily

“That last play we missed a switch. We were trying to switch on everything on that last play,” And someone either didn’t talk or didn’t hear, and when that happens you get a wide open shot and give them a chance to knock it down. And to that kid’s credit he did.”

The game went back and forth throughout the second half. The lead changed five times in the second half. The Hornets led by as much as four points, 42-38, with 11:38 left in the game.

Bridgewater used a 12-3 run, led by two 3-pointers from Jesse Case, to take a 50-45 advantage with 7:34 left.

The Hornets responded with an 8-3 run to tie the game at 53 with 2:40 left on a layup by Malcolm Clark.

Shenandoah took a 55-53 lead with one minute left on a basket by Antwan Pittman.

Shenandoah University's Aaron Patterson drives past Bridgewater's Spencer Hatcher during first half action Wednesday night in Winchester. Rich Cooley/Daily

The Eagles tied the game on a layup by Saylor with 43 seconds left. The Hornets missed a shot and turned the ball over on their next possession, giving the Eagles one last chance.

“I liked the way our guys played defense,” Pryor said. “We just weren’t able to make plays in the crunch. Missed free throws, missed layups here and there, untimely fouls – in a close game those little things cost you.”

The Hornets trailed throughout the entire first half until the last 10 seconds.

Bridgewater jumped out to a 12-0 lead led by five points from Saylor.

The Hornets (3-15, 0-8 ODAC) slowly chipped away at the lead. Two 3-pointers by Aaron Patterson sparked a 10-0 run by Shenandoah to cut the lead to 16-14 with 8:23 left in the opening half.

Shenandoah's Jordan Hunter fires a shot over Bridgewater's Tim Dougan during a game last season. Hunter returns as a team captain for a Hornets squad seeking improvement this season. Rich Cooley/Daily

“I love the fight in our team,” Pryor said. “We haven’t given up in a game this year. When you’re in the midst of a losing streak like we are, it’s difficult to keep fighting. So I’m proud of our guys for that. And going forward if we have that type of attitude, particularly on the defensive end we’ll start to get some wins.”

The Eagles (4-12, 3-5 ODAC) were able to stretch the lead back to six, 22-16, with 5:24 remaining in the first half.

The Hornets scored six straight points on a conventional three-point play by Clark and three free throws by Pittman.

The two teams traded scores, and another 3-pointer by Patterson gave Shenandoah its first lead of the game, 27-24 with 10 seconds left in the first half. Bridgewater’s Logan Seacrist hit two free throws with nine seconds left to cut the lead to 27-26 at the half.

The Eagles were led by Case with 22 points and five rebounds, and Saylor with 18 points and four rebounds.

Bridgewater coach Shawn Postiglione said he hopes this win will ignite his young squad, which has struggled this season.

“When you have a young team and you have guys that don’t have much experience, you need those positive moments those wins, to keep them going and energetic every day,” Postiglione said. “You got to take every (win) and run with it. So hopefully we can just keep building on this.”

The Hornets had 24 points from their bench, led by Chris Chaney with seven points and 10 rebounds. Clark had 14 points and 12 rebounds, and Pittman and Patterson had 11 each.

Shenandoah has now lost 13 games in a row, and Pryor said the team just needs to keep staying positive, and learning from the losses.

“We’re trying to build a winning program here,” Pryor said. “Learning how to win is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight. The fact that our guys are competitive is a thing that I’m proud of. But we just got to get over the hump by making those free throws in the clutch. Making that big shot, not committing an ill-advised foul, switching on defense on that last play. All those types of things we can build on and help us win games in the future.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com