THREE SPRINGS - At different points throughout Juniata and Mount Union's season-opening game against each other Friday, the teams might have felt the only buckets to be found were the buckets of rain outside.
Both teams struggled offensively throughout the game - including a two-point opening quarter from the Indians and a four-point third from the Trojans - but ultimately it was Mount Union's experience and a breakout fourth quarter by Trevon Walker and B.J. Loner that gave the Trojans the 50-40 victory in the first round of the Southern Huntingdon Tip-Off Tournament.
Mount Union (1-0) will play the winner of the late game between Southern Huntingdon and Fairfield in the championship game at 8 p.m. today, while Juniata (0-1) will take on the loser for third at 6 p.m.
Sentinel photo by TIM?SHUMAKER
Mount Union’s B.J. Loner, center, goes up for a shot between Juniata defenders Logan Knepp (51) and Jubal Baker Friday at Southern Huntingdon.
"We put too much pressure on ourselves," Mount Union coach Joe Komir said of his team's offensive performance, but the pressure the Trojans faced throughout the game was not exclusively internal. The Indians, although inexperienced and playing their first game under coach Al Ream, put up a tough fight after going down 12-2 in the first quarter to make it a game.
The Indians' first signs of life began in the second quarter when Jubal Baker was tough under the basket for six points, and buckets from Aaron Zendt, Ross Mummah and Justin Mingle had the score at 22-15 heading into the locker room.
On the Trojans' end, Kole House was instrumental in keeping Mount Union ahead with his six points, while teammate Loner put up four. However, in the third quarter Mount Union could only manage one bucket apiece from Loner and Walker, leaving the door wide open for the Indians to get back in the game.
And the Indian to run through the opening with the most force was Tyler Clark.
Clark hit two from beyond the arc in addition and a closer one to propel Juniata to a 27-26 lead at the end of the quarter, but it wasn't just the offense that was key. The Indians hit the boards hard on defensive rebounding and took advantage of Mount Union's slow quarter for the brief lead.
Yet if the Trojans' picks were ineffective and shots lazy in the third quarter, the final stanza featured 12 points from Walker, who finished with a game-high 19, and six from Loner as Mount Union eventually put the game away.
Key in the final quarter was Walker's effectiveness under the basket, as he used his size and experience advantages against Juniata's post players to post the win.
"We played a good fourth quarter; that's where you win ball games," Komir said, although he was quick to point out difficulties with outside shooting and turnovers as two of the team's weaknesses throughout the game.
On Juniata's end, it was the weak first quarter and overall lack of experience that could have been the difference in the game.
Ream said pregame jitters played a role in the first quarter, in addition to some difficulties with fundamentals such as blocking passing lanes on the defense that contributed to the final outcome.
"Overall I think our defense played hard and played well. We gave up some stuff. They definitely had some mismatches on us, and when they had some mismatches they were able to capitalize on it," Ream said, giving credit to Walker and Loner for their athleticism and experience playing together.