By JEREMY JORDAN
On a day when the University of Mary Washington men’s basketball team did not have their best shooting performance they still managed a furious rally,but up short.
The first half was a high energy back and forth affair highlighted by nine lead changes.
The York College Spartans held their largest lead of the first half at 9-3 early on. However, the Eagles responded as was the case all night, and would not led the Spartans come away with an easy victory.
Justin Baker hit an acrobatic runner in the lane and converted on the three-point play, a play gave the eagles a four-point lead at 27-23.
York senior Levi Winters had all the answers. He hit one of many threes to give the Spartans the lead in the closing minutes of the half.
Ben Stokes was able to beat the buzzer with a jumper from the right elbow tying the game at 35 and giving the Eagles a huge momentum swing.
The momentum was short-lived. Winters kept firing to a game high 26 points. Teammate Jeremy Keefer joined in on the act and the Spartans made a 12-0 run to gain a 14-point advantage.
“They hit some shots from some guys that we didn’t think were gonna hit shots,” said sophomore center Brandon Altmann.
Junior guard Matt Hale added, “They came out in the second half, they came out and hit shots and we came out and missed shots.”
It was Hale who would find the touch and get his team back in the game. Hale hit three three-pointers and led the Eagles with his 19 points.
Hale had 11 of his 19 points in the second half to lead the charge as he finally saw some open looks. Part of his success was his ability to get off his shot quickly.
“Being my size I can’t set for too long because right now teams are gunning for me,” said Hale.
On this day the Eagles were fighting not only the Spartans, but also the men in stripes who certainly did not help the Eagles’ cause. The large crowd voiced their displeasure on numerous occasions. Parents and students alike voiced their opinion for the officiating.
“[Referees]must not like our coach. They always give us the wrong calls,” said Altmann “You just have to keep playing through it. Good teams do.”
Coach Rod Wood echoed that sentiment stating, “I thought the officiating was poor. I called him over and told him such,” however Wood also explained, “the officiating didn’t cause us to lose.”
The officiating certainly didn’t help as the Eagles clawed away at the Spartans lead. The Eagles brought the crowd to their feet with an 8-0 run. Threes from Stokes off a fast break and another from Hale from the left elbow off a Kevin Storus pass cut the York lead down to 76-73 with under two minutes to play in the contest.
The Spartans answered with two quick buckets including a fast break by Winters to give York a 7 point lead once again.
The Eagles battled to the final buzzer getting a three from Altmann to close the final score to an 84-78 margin.
The loss drops the Eagles to 12-6 overall and 8-3 in the Colonial Athletic Conference.
Meanwhile, the win gives York sole possession of first place in the Conference with a 14-6 record, 9-2 in conference play.
“We just gotta get tougher. We just gotta get tougher mentally,” said Altmann of future battles with York.
Hale did think his team played well. “We left it all out there, we can’t complain about the effort, it’s a tough loss. We’ll battle back and we’ll see them in a couple weeks. We have to learn how to come together and play team defense and get stops when we need them.”
Looking forward, Coach Wood was also pleased with his team’s effort.
“We did better than I thought we were capable of doing. I didn’t think we could beat them right now. I hoped that I was wrong,” he said. “But from what I see on a daily basis in practice and what I see on a daily basis in games, we are getting better. But we’re still not at their level.”
Wood also added that he believes that York is the best team in the conference. He then smiled and said, “I hope we get a chance to play them again.”