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Back to back wins keep men’s playoff hopes alive

Millersville’s men’s basketball team survived two potential meltdowns last week en route to winning both of their games, improving their record to 10-15 overall and 4-8 in conference play.  Despite having double-digit leads in the second half in games against Cheyney and Bloomsburg, the Marauders managed to hold off late charges and pull away with victories keeping their slim playoff hopes alive.

Millersville traveled to Cheyney last Wednesday and overcame a cold-shooting first half, and a dominant rebounding effort by the Wolves and came out on top with a 61-59 victory.  The Marauders relied tough defense throughout the game, a red-hot offensive output in the second half and a little luck to help spoil Cheyney’s hopes of winning the PSAC East division championship.

Millersville entered halftime of the game with a 24-17 lead despite shooting just 33 percent from the floor.  They gained the lead in large part due to their suffocating defense that forced nine first half turnovers and allowed the Wolves to shoot an even worse 30 percent from the field.

“I think Cheyney kind of took us kind of softly, and we took advantage of that,” freshman Brandon Wiedener said.

The Marauder offense came to life in the second half as they shot 15-22 in the final 20 minutes. Millersville built its lead to 12 points early on, but watched the lead dwindle down to six about midway through the half, and even lower in the final minutes as Cheyney controlled the offensive boards and piled in the second chance points.

With 44 seconds to go, and the Marauders clinging to a three-point lead, a foul by junior Jason Blake sent Cheyney’s Tyrone Smith to the line for two free throws.  After making the first, Smith missed the second, but Cheyney grabbed the rebound, missed a three and pulled down yet another offensive rebound and scored to tie the game.  However, it would not happen without controversy.

After the put back, both the Cheyney scoreboard and scorebook read that the Marauders were down one point even though the score should have read a 59-59 tie.

Luckily for Millersville, their statistician was on top of things, and after conferring with the referees, the score was set back to what it should have been.

Without the correction, the Marauders’ postseason hopes could have gone out the window altogether.

Instead, Millersville took a two-point lead with three seconds left off of a short jumper by junior Palmer McDurfee.

Sophomore guard, Trai Hawkins, drives to past a defender in the Marauders' win against Bloomsburg. Photo by: Christian Shuts.
Sophomore guard, Trai Hawkins, drives to past a defender in the Marauders' win against Bloomsburg. Photo by: Christian Shuts.

After a Cheyney timeout they traveled the length of the floor and nailed a three for what appeared to give them a win, but after it was discussed by the referees, they waived off the shot after they determined that it left the shooter’s hand after the buzzer had already sounded, giving the Marauders the win.

“Overall, it was a crazy game.  Their crowd was a huge factor; it was basically like a sixth man,” Wiedener said. “Luckily our team pulled it together and PJ [McDurfee] made that crazy shot.”

After the wild finish, Millersville hosted the Bloomsburg Huskies on Saturday.  The Marauders avenged an earlier defeat by toppling the Huskies 71-69.

Millersville once again held a double-digit lead in the second half, but allowed their opponent to crawl back within reach of a victory.

This time, however, Millersville was able to rely on their free throw shooting, something that has been somewhat of an Achilles heel for them all season.

The Marauders led by 13 with just four minutes to go, and Bloomsburg, no doubt looking to capitalize on Millersville’s season-long free throw shooting woes sent the team to the line 18 times in the final two and a half minutes.

Freshman Mike Seibert helped make things tough for the Huskies as he went six of six from the line in the final minute.

The rest of the team went 7 for 12 in the final two and a half minutes which was just enough to hold on for the win.

The Huskies had a chance to win after a Marauder turnover with nine seconds left.  However, the Millersville defense held its ground and the Huskies were unable to get off a shot.

Millersville got back to the basketball that Marauder fans are used to seeing: games controlled on the defensive end.

The winning results are encouraging and the team hopes it can help them make the playoffs.

“We’re not going to do anything different. We’ve been winning and we don’t want to change anything up,” Wiedener said.

Hopefully for the Marauders that and a little more luck will be enough for a third consecutive postseason appearance.