LHU Men’s: Eagles run out of time versus ESU
By BILL ALBRIGHT
Express Sports Writer
LOCK HAVEN — Still involved in a fierce battle for a possible PSAC playoff spot, the Lock Haven University men’s basketball team returned to what would hopefully be the friendly confines of Thomas Field House for the 2019-20 home finale.
Unfortunately for the Bald Eagles, the cards didn’t fall their way as the postseason picture took a hit with a 92-83 loss to East Stroudsburg on senior night.
Regardless of the outcome of the game, it was a big day for four seniors who were recognized on senior day for their efforts and contributions to the program at several points during the past four years.
Included in the quartet of departing seniors are Christian Kelly, Trevor Lecouna, Gary Hawes and Damian Young.
“Those guys have been great,” said LHU head coach Mike Nestor. “They have all come here in different ways. Gary Hawes was a football player and wanted to play basketball his last two years. Unfortunately for him, he tore his ACL in the first week of practice and he told me that regardless of what happened that he was coming back because he didn’t want to go out like that and he has been a great practice player every day.
“Damian was a manager for two years and last year he told me that he wanted to play,” continued Nestor.”We were down bodies last year and he just brought it every day. The future of those two is very bright whatever they decide they want to do.
While Hawes and Young fulfilled their roles as situational players, Kelly and Lecouna have been major factors in the success of the Bald Eagles this year.
“Trevor (a transfer from Seton Hill) comes here and is thrown into the mix. He stepped right in and did a lot of good things,” said Nestor. “He turned out to be one of those ‘Thank God he is here’ guys. He scored 50 here in season two and that only shows what hard work can do. Christian had some big games for us this year and stepped up as a team leader when he needed to. All four of those guys are going to graduate (Trevor has his degree from Seton Hill) and is looking to get his master’s degree.
“They are all great kids from great families and we are going to miss what they brought to our program every day.”
The two teams played each other tough as neither team led by more than three points in the first eight minutes. However, that is when ESU turned up the offense to go up by seven (26-19) midway through the period. Keeping the pressure on, ESU added a couple of points to their advantage to lead by 11 with 6:30 left in the half.
Further extending their lead, the Warriors built their advantage to 54-37 at the break.
“That is two games in a row where we didn’t come out ready to play,” said Nestor. “We got blown out down at West Chester, we were down 15 with 15 turnovers here and then the mindset kicks in. We just have to find a way to get that better start because if we can do that, we can play with anybody. We are capable of playing some good-team basketball, but we have struggled the past two games in the first half.”
One big thorn in the side of the Eagles was the turnover bug, the Crimson turning the ball over 15 times in the first 20 minutes.
LHU cut the ESU lead to 11 several times in the first ten minutes of the second period, but couldn’t turn the corner to get their deficit to single digits until late in the period.
Continuing to battle, the Bald Eagles did manage to cut their deficit to a half dozen down the stretch, but it was too little, too late and the frustrating loss was in the books.
“There was one of those five or seven-minute stretches where it just stayed at eleven,” Nestor said. “We had some good looks, but we just didn’t make shots. That is the way it goes. They play that kind of style and we figured it out a little bit and again, we go with seven or eight (players) and they just keep bringing herds and herds into the game.”
Early reports have it that if LHU defeats Millersville Saturday, they are in the postseason. They have the tiebreakers over the teams they are tied with so Saturday’s game is huge. Stay tuned.