LHU MEN’S: Thrilling upset-bid falls short, LHU edged by No. 3 seed Ship

SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. – The Lock Haven University men’s basketball team (12-15) looked poised for an upset, but in the end, host Shippensburg University (23-6) held on for a narrow one-point win. Ship, playing as the PSAC East’s No. 3 seed, downed the visiting Bald Eagles, 71-70, in a thrilling tournament opener.

The Bald Eagles were picked to finish last in the PSAC East preseason coaches’ poll, but entered tonight’s game as the East’s No. 6 seed. The Bald Eagles who turned heads all season long with their tough, fast-paced, end-to-end team-orientated basketball, did it again tonight, in putting together a spectacular 40-minute effort.

The starting five carried the way for Lock Haven, but the effort was solid from all seven Bald Eagles who stepped on the court tonight.

Leading the was the dynamic duo of Matt Cerruti (Huntingdon Valley, Pa./Archbishop Wood) and Christian Kelly (Phoenixville, Pa./Phoenixville). The two combined to score 48 of LHU’s 70 points, as each star, unfazed by the playoff atmosphere, netted 24 points apiece.

Jihad Barnes (Philadelphia/Philadelphia Electric Charter) scored 10 points and Jesse McPherson (Philadelphia/Archbishop Carrol) added nine.

Kelly had a big-time double-double, as he grabbed 14 rebounds to go along with his 24 points. McPherson added seven rebounds. Barnes helped direct the offense with a five-assist night.

Tonight’s game marked Lock Haven’s first PSAC playoff appearance since the 2016-17 season. Under head coach Mike Nestor’s leadership, the Bald Eagles made four straight playoff appearances from 2014-2017.

During the regular season, LHU and Ship split the two-game regular season series in PSAC East action. Back on January 16, Lock Haven secured a signature win, as LHU knocked off Shippensburg, 59-58 in another one-point thriller. At the time, it was only the second PSAC loss of the season for Shippensburg, who lost just four games in conference play all season.

Shippensburg went on a late first-half run which helped the hosts take a 45-33 lead into halftime. For most of the first half however, the young Lock Haven side went toe-to-toe with the East’s three-seed. The first-half momentum proved to carry over into the second, and the Bald Eagles pushed all the way to the end. LHU closed the game on a 7-0 run and trailed by one with just seconds left, and Lock Haven had a chance to win it, but the Ship-defense held strong.