STEUBENVILLE – The Franciscan men's basketball team faced a tough La Roche Red Hawk squad Wednesday night and despite battling back from a 32-point deficit, fell 75-54 in a mid-week AMCC matchup.
"The guys never gave up tonight," remarked head coach Joe Wallace "IT was the first time against a good team, we were knocked down, on the ground, and we fought. We didn't back down. We went through a terrible stretch tonight, we couldn't score, we didn't have a lot of urgency, but I am dwelling on the positives. We ended up playing really hard and physical and that was great to see."
Sophomore Juwan Perkins scored the first two points of the second half to cut the La Roche lead down to eight points, 32-24, but the Red Hawks went on a 32-8 run over the next 10 minutes to build their largest lead of the game, 64-32, with 9:44 to play. Perkins drew a tough foul and hit the first of two free throws to halt the Red Hawk run and kick off a 7-0 run by the Barons to cut the lead down to 24, 64-40, with 5:18 to play.
After the two teams traded a free throw each, the Red Hawks hit a jumper with 4:19 to play to push their lead back to 26 before senior Derrick David drained a three thanks to a quick pass from junior Keoni Sablan. David's three ignited another 7-0 run for Franciscan that pulled the Barons to within 19 with 2:57 left in regulation. La Roche extended its lead back to 21 thanks to a pair of free throws but a jumper from freshman Aaron Foldi and two perfect trips to the free throw line from freshman Joe Schriner cut the lead down to 17, 71-54, with just over a minute to play. The Red Hawks though closed out the game with four good free throws to seal the 75-54 win.
"Tonight was a great testament of our guys' character," continued Coach Wallace. "[The game] could have really gotten out of hand, but our guys just kept their composure and fought hard."
The first half saw two ties and three lead changes as the Barons took two different leads in the first 20 minutes. After trailing by three to open the contest, Schriner hit a three to tie the game at 5-5 and freshman Michael Mendicino hit a jumper to give FUS a 7-5 lead. Freshman Matt Trent gave Franciscan it's largest lead of the game thanks to a pair of free throws as the Barons led 9-5 with 14:09 to play in the first. After the Red Hawks hit three of their next four free throws to take a 10-9 lead, Trent pulled down a defensive board and went coast-to-coast and hit a jumper with 11:42 to play to give Franciscan its final lead of the game, 11-10.
Franciscan kept it close for most of the first half and kept the lead to fewer than 10 until La Roche completed a perfect trip to the free throw line to take a 10-point lead, 30-20, with 2:03 to play. The Red Hawks took their largest lead of the half thanks to a jumper from Trell Thomas as La Roche led, 32-20. Freshman Josh York hit the final jumper of the half for either team with 1:06 to play as the Barons headed into the locker room trailing 32-22.
Schriner led the Barons with 13 points while Trent pulled down a season-best 14 rebounds. Perkins chipped in 11 points for the Barons.
Franciscan will host Pitt.-Bradford on Saturday as the Barons celebrate the legendary coach Hank Kuzma during Kuzma Community Day. Tip-off is scheduled for 4pm.