Huntingdon, Pa- The Juniata men's basketball team earned the number one seed in the Landmark Conference Championships after their 73-64 victory over Drew Saturday afternoon on senior day at Memorial Gymnasium.
Seth Brewer (Lancaster, Pa./Manheim Township) tallied 21 points, four rebounds and three blocks, Damon Rickens (Altoona, Pa./Bishop Guilfoyle) had 12 points while Marcus Lee (Carrolltown, Pa./Bishop Carroll) had 11 points. Brandon Martinazzi (Cresson, Pa./Bishop Carroll) had seven points and three rebounds while Wil Peralta (Hagerstown, Md./North Hagerstown) contributed two points, six assists and three rebounds. Paul Martello (York, Pa./York Catholic) had seven points off the bench while Jake Holsopple (Hollidaysburg, Pa./Hollidaysburg) had five points and five rebounds.
Martinazzi found Rickens along the right wing for a three to put JC on the board. Rickens turned provider the next trip down the floor, zinging a pass to Lee who was on the left baseline and he drilled the midrange jumper. Two Lee free throws, a layup off a pass from Peralta and a Rickens three from the left wing put JC up 12-4 in the opening four minutes. A few possessions later, Brewer drove to the paint a lofted a shot high off the glass and in to push the Eagle lead back to double digits at 17-7. On the following Eagle possession Holsopple corralled an offensive rebound in traffic and converted an and-one with the free throw. A nifty reverse layup in heavy traffic by Martello on the next trip made it 22-12.
Drew whittled away at the lead over the next several minutes, and a short jumper from the right baseline narrowed the Eagle lead to four, 24-20. The Rangers would take their first lead of the game on lay-up with just under seven minutes to go in the half.
Brewer got to the line twice and made all four foul shots to get the Eagles the lead back. With a little over a minute left Rickens found a cutting Martinazzi for a layup and later Brewer hit a reverse layup with his off hand to make it 37-30 with under forty seconds remaining. The Rangers threw the ball away, so Juniata decided to hold for one. As the clock ticked under 11 seconds, JC began their play which ended with Rickens swishing his fourth three of the half from the left corner over the outstretched hand of a Drew defender. JC led 40-30 at half.
Peralta found Lee for a layup to start the second and on the next trip down he drove and scored a bucket of his own. The senior from Maryland found Martello alone on the left wing and he drilled a three to push the Eagle lead to double digits.
A Zach Engle (Spring Mills, Pa./Penns Valley) hook shot off glass followed by a Nathan Markey (York, Pa./Central York) three pushed the lead to 16 as Memorial Gymnasium started rocking with a just under 10 minutes to go.
With a little under three minutes to go, the Rangers had pulled within 12 and Juniata call timeout. Out of the timeout, Brewer drove from the left wing laid it in while being fouled by the Ranger center. The free throw made it 72-57 and the Eagles maintained their lead the rest of the way, with Drew getting the lead down to single digits in the final moments of the game.
The win closes out the best regular season in program history as the Eagles have already matched the most wins in a season at 21 (back in the 2012-13 season). They also finish the regular season undefeated in Memorial Gymnasium. This is the first time the Eagles have finished atop the Landmark Conference and that the Landmark Championships will go through Huntingdon. The Eagle win coupled with Moravian losing at Catholic gave the Eagles the top spot in the conference.
The Eagles will host Catholic in the Landmark Championships semifinals, Wednesday at 5:30.