Knights rally past Hornets for win

By Jerry Holsworth — sports@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER — It is difficult, if not impossible, to win close ballgames in the final minutes if you turn the ball over and can’t make your free throws, and that’s exactly what happened to Shenandoah University’s men’s basketball team in the final moments of its game with Southern Virginia University on Wednesday.

The result was a devastating 82-79 loss to the Knights.

“We played well for 36 minutes tonight,” Shenandoah coach Robert Harris said. “We didn’t take care of the ball, and we had problems at the free-throw line. We need to straighten that out. When we go to the line, we need to step up and knock down our free throws.”

The loss was particularly stinging because the Hornets led for all but the last 21 seconds of the game. Shenandoah began the game with a 6-0 run, and led by as many as 17 points midway through the first half.

“We really stole one tonight,” Southern Virginia coach Brian Pendleton said. “We trailed by as many as 17 points in the first half.”

The Knights first lead came with 21 seconds left in the game when Ade Swan scored on a layup to put Southern Virginia up 80-79.

That was the story of the last two minutes of play. With the Hornets leading 79-71 with 2:04 left, Southern Virginia used those last two minutes to outscore Shenandoah 11-0 on the way to a stunning come-from-behind victory.

“We had watched a couple of their games and we knew that they had trouble finishing a game,” Pendleton said. “We knew that if we could get the game to within 3 or 4 points in the final minutes, we had a chance to win.”

The Hornets downfall began when Shenandoah guard Brandon Bryan lost the ball on a turnover with 1:55 left and the Hornets leading 79-71. Southern Virginia took advantage of the Hornet miscue to score on a 3-point play. After being fouled on a layup, Knight guard Chris Lewis nailed his free throw to narrow Shenandoah’s lead to 79-75.

With the Hornets still leading by 4, Shenandoah point guard Kenny Robertson missed a pair of free throws on their next trip down the floor.

The Knight immediately took advantage of Robertson’s misses when Evans scored on a layup with 58 seconds remaining to close the Hornets’ lead to 3.

Forced to foul with the clock running out, Southern Virginia fouled Kevin Kline with 39.4 second left. The Hornet junior missed both of free throws, and Mitchell Dudley fouled Evans during the battle for the rebound. Evans’ two free throws narrowed the Hornet lead to just one, 79-78.

“Early in the game our shots just wouldn’t fall for us,” said Knight guard Bryce Pendleton, who hit a critical 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the first half, drawing Southern Virginia to within 7, 38-31 at halftime.

“We’re a very good shooting team, and we knew that if we just kept putting the ball up it would eventually start going in.”

Another turnover by the Hornets, this one by Lenzie Adams with 33 seconds left, gave Swan the opportunity to give the Knights their first lead.

The Hornets were never able to recover, failing to get any real scoring opportunities in the closing seconds of the game.

“We let them back in the game in the final minutes and they took full advantage of the opportunity,” Harris said. “We had an 8-point lead with two minutes to play. So we still had the game under control. They were forced to foul in order to get back into the game, and we just weren’t able to knock down our free throws.”

Kline scored on a layup just 18 seconds into the game, beginning a scoring blitz by the Hornets that left the Knights far behind. Southern Virginia didn’t help themselves by going 2-for-14 from the field in the first 10 minutes of play, but they slowing chipped away at the Shenandoah lead as the game progressed.

Dudley was the top scorer for the Hornets with 22. Kline wasn’t far behind with 20, and Robertson and Bryan both scored in double figures for Shenandoah with 14 and 12 points respectively. Dudley was also the top rebounder for the Hornets with nine.

The Knights were led by Pendleton and Swan who had 18 points each.