EJ takes close contest with Mount Union

MOUNT UNION – Just as Mount Union coach Joe Komir expected, one particular play backfired on the Trojans.

East Juniata’s Chas Maguire drained a wide-open 3-pointer as time expired to end the first quarter and it proved to be the difference as East Juniata knocked off Mount Union 49-47 in a boys nonleague basketball game Wednesday in Mount Union.

For the first time this season, East Juniata was tested with its back against the wall.

With third-team all-state guard Nick Lorenz fouled out and big man Bailey Coder and his average 27 points per game stymied by Mount Union’s Trevon Walker, East Juniata had to turn somewhere else to secure the game.

“That’s something we’re going to build on from this,” East Juniata coach Brock Anders said. “With Nick going out tonight it was a difficult situation. The resolve of those guys, the guys coming off the bench, the guys hitting free throws at the end. It just shows the development of East Juniata basketball the last six years.”

One of those players turned out to be David Brantley.

Brantley scored four of the Tigers’ final six points, including a free throw with 6.9 seconds remaining, to put East Juniata up 49-44.

With Lorenz out, East Juniata leaned on Brantley to handle the ball, and he did just that.

After Mount Union’s Kole House made back-to-back baskets to cut East Juniata’s lead to two points – its smallest lead since 2-0 – Brantley sank a free throw to make it 44-41, then a layup to extend the lead to 46-41.

Brantley and Maguire accounted for 16 of East Juniata’s 49 points.

“This win solely comes back to the role guys and guys stepping up and making plays at the end of the basketball game,” Anders said. “When you lose a team captain, a leader, a leading scorer, on the floor. Our guys were able to overcome a lot of adversity. It’s a tribute to our guys and how hard they work.”

There were two particular spots where the game swung in East Juniata’s favor – Maguire’s three to end the 20-point first quarter and a big stretch following the half.

“Horrible first quarter,” Komir said. “They just dominated the first quarter.”

After the break, East Juniata came out on a 14-5 run that included eight straight points from Lorenz.

The senior hit successive threes from well beyond the arc to stretch the lead to 12 – the biggest for the Tigers to that point in the evening.

“We just gave up too many threes,” Komir said. “They didn’t go to their assigned spots. They got over-excited and moved.”

Mount Union responded with five straight points to send the game into the final quarter at 41-33 when C.J. Booher hit one of his two threes and Walker scored inside.

Lorenz fouled out with 6:29 to play in the fourth with East Juniata clinging to a 43-37 lead.

House followed with the two baskets to cut it to 43-41 with 3:30 to play.

Walker nailed a 3-pointer with 0.9 seconds left to get Mount Union within two at 49-47, but East Juniata successfully inbounded the ball to half-court and time expired.

Walker finished with a team-best 21 points while Lorenz scored a team-high 21 for East Juniata.

“This is the first win at Mount Union during my tenure,” Anders said. “I think this is a quality win and it’s going to help us down the road.”

Mount Union took the JV game by a 44-40 score.

Both teams will take the floor next Friday at 7:30 p.m. when East Juniata hosts Juniata and Mount Union welcomes in West Branch.