HAMBURG, NY – Trailing just four points with 16 seconds left in the game, the Franciscan men's basketball team dropped a tight 74-65 contest to the Hilbert Hawks, Saturday afternoon.
The Hawks hit five of six free throws in the final 16 seconds to secure the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference win over Franciscan as Hilbert held a 34-9 advantage in free throw attempts for the game over the Barons. Hilbert went 23-for-34 at the line while the Barons hit 5-of-9 free throws.
"I am proud of our performance today," remarked head coach Joe Wallace following the game. "We played as a team today and almost knocked off one of the top teams in the league on the road. The honest truth is we lost the game at the free throw line."
In a back and forth affair that saw 13 lead changes and 10 ties, the Barons gave the Hawks all they could handle down the stretch. Freshman Joe Vernau made a layup 16 seconds into the second half to give the Barons their first lead of the second period as the lead changed hands seven times over the first 10 minutes of the half. With 9:49 to play, sophomore Joe Schriner hit a pair of free throws to cut the Hawk lead down to one, 56-55, before freshman Sean Hickey drained a deep three to give the Barons a 58-56 lead with 8:26 to play. The Hawks and Barons traded layups as the Barons maintained their lead for the next three minutes before Antonio Alvarez hit a three with 4:58 to play to tie the game at 61-61 with 4:58 to play.
The Hawks took the lead behind a layup from Hunter Martineau but senior Keoni Sablan finished a timely jumper with 3:32 to play to keep the game tied, 63-63. The Hawks, however, finished the game on an 11-2 run to seal the win, with all of their points coming on free throws.
The first half played out just as the second did as neither team could pull away. Franciscan built its largest lead of the game, 12-6 (six points) with 15:56 to play in the first but Hilbert used well-timed free throws to stay in the game. Hilbert took the lead 22-19 with 9:06 to play and held on to the lead until junior Juwan Perkins hit a three with 1:15 to play to give Franciscan a 33-32 lead. The Hawks answered immediately with a jumper to retake the lead, 34-33 on their next possession and held the advantage going into the locker room at the half.
Hilbert out-scored the Barons 40-32 in the second half, including 15 points from the free throw line to seal the conference win.
"We had our chances down the stretch and couldn't come up with the winning plays," continued Coach Wallace. "Those winning plays will come with continued experience. These guys have a lot of scrap in them. It will start to pay off."
Leading the Barons was Schriner with 17 points and five assists while Sablan chipped in 13 points and four assists. Perkins added 11 points including going 3-for-5 from beyond the arc.
As a team, the Barons shot 42.2% (27-for-64) from the floor while the Hawks went 23-for-57 (40.4%).
Franciscan takes a break from conference action on Monday as the Barons host Washington & Jefferson at Kuzma Court for a 5pm tipoff.