READING, Pa. – Despite an eight point lead with 1:29 remaining in regulation time, the Wells College men's basketball squad posted an 86-85 loss to the Nittany Lions of Penn St.-Berks on Friday. With the loss, Wells drops to 8-14 overall on the year and to 7-8 within the North Eastern Athletic Conference. The Nittany Lions improve to 6-15 on the season and to 6-9 within the league.
Senior Jonathan Hurtado (Brooklyn, N.Y.) led all Wells players with 21 total points, shooting 9-for-15 from the floor in the losing effort. Junior J.J. Walton (Ocala, Fla.) chipped in 19 points after a 7-for-8 performance from the floor. His classmate, Jordan Jean (Englewood, N.J.), posted 14 total points and a team-best five rebounds. Junior Erich Kaempffe (North Rose, N.Y.) led all Wells players with five assists.
Following back-to-back free throws by Hurtado, the Express possessed an 83-75 lead in the game's late stages. Only 10 seconds later, however, Darren Major bombed a three-point basket to cut the lead to five points. With the Nittany Lions forced to foul in the final 1:05, the Express missed 3-of-4 foul shots across the game's next six seconds. Following the last missed free throw, Christian Burggraf converted a layup with 53 seconds left to cut the Wells lead to four points, 84-80.
Carrying the ball up court, Wells committed an offensive foul that led to a turnover. Burggraf continued his dominant game, carrying the ball right up the court to cut the Wells lead to two points, 84-82. With the hosts again forced to foul, the Wells shooter converted only 1-of-2 foul shots with 36 seconds left in the second half to recreate a three point lead, 85-82.
A missed three-pointer by Berks was safely rebounded by an Express player, but was turned over only five seconds later. Burggraf, once again, made Wells pay for their miscue, bombing a three-pointer with 16 seconds left to tie the game at 85 aside. From there, an offensive foul by the Express not only turned the ball over, but sent Major to the line with one second left. Despite missing the first foul shot in a tied game, Major hit his second attempt to lift the host Nittany Lions to an improbable 86-85 win.
The host Nittany Lions possessed a 10 point lead at the half, using a 54.1% shooting percentage in the opening stanza to create the sizeable gap. The Express, however, shot 18-for-27 (66.7%) in the second half to overcome a game-high 15 point deficit with 5:09 expired in the second half. Trailing 64-49 with 13:07 left in regulation time, Wells scored 14 of the game's next 15 points to cut the deficit to only two points, 65-63, with 8:21 left in regulation time.
Back-to-back baskets by Walton and Hurtado forced the Express into the lead as the latter's layup gave Wells a 70-69 lead with 6:13 left in the game. After trading leads and ultimately tying the game at 73 aside with 3:45 left in regulation time, Wells registered 10 points while allowing only two points by the hosts, setting the Express up with an eight point lead in the game's final 89 seconds.
Burggraf paced the host Nittany Lions, converting 11 field goals while missing only three from the floor (11-for-14) to score 31 points against Wells. Tom Smith racked up a double-double, scoring 22 points and chipping in with 11 rebounds. Dameon Nixon assisted six baskets, a team-high, while Major accounted for 17 of his team's points.
The Express return to action Saturday, Feb. 15 as they face-off against Lancaster Bible College at 1:00 p.m. on the road. Wells travels to Morrisville State College on Wednesday, Feb. 19 before returning home on Saturday, Feb. 22 to host the Storm of Keuka College.
(Photo courtesy of http://www.auburnrunners.com)