STEUBENVILLE – The Franciscan men's basketball team's late second-half comeback fell just short, Friday afternoon, as the Grove City Wolverines escaped with a 78-71 win over the Barons inside Finnegan Fieldhouse.
Grove City (8-2) opened the second half with a 16-2 run over the first eight minutes of the second half to open up a 46-37 lead over the Barons. Freshman Sean Hickey halted the Grove City run as he sunk a deep three at the top of the key with 10:44 to play off a pass from Joe Vernau. James Wells answered with a layup on the Wolverines next possession before sophomore Matt Trent and Justice Rice traded baskets, Rice's for three, as Grove City led 51-42 with 9:21 to play. The three from Rice kicked off a 11-5 run for Grove City to give the Wolverines a 16-point lead, 63-47, their largest of the game.
Trent went to work under the basket and pulled down an offensive rebound off his own shot and put it back, drawing the foul on his way, to complete a three-point play and get the Barons within 13, 63-50. Sophomore Joe Schriner drew a foul just a minute later and hit both free throws before Rice hit a jumper. Trent answered with a pair of free throws of his own before junior Juwan Perkins made a pair of layups with 3:36 to play to cut the lead down to single digits, 66-58. The Wolverines last 12 points of the game came off free throws while the Barons kept pace with 13 points, four from Hickey and Trent and three from Perkins. Hickey hit a jumper with just four seconds left to cut the lead down to 78-71 but the Barons' come back ran out of time as the clock expired.
The Wolverines opened the game on a 6-0 run over the first three and a half minutes before a layup from Perkins and a pair of free throws from Trent cut the deficit down to two, 6-4. Grove City maintained its lead, eventually leading by four, 13-9, with 11:15 to play in the first. Franciscan used a 5-0 run, capped by a layup from JP Dombrowski to take its first lead of the game, 14-13. The Wolverines re-took a 17-14 lead before a pair of free throws from Dombrowksi and Perkins give the Barons an 18-17 lead with 7:23 to play. The lead changed hands two more times before a Perkins three and a jumper from Dombrowski gave Franciscan the lead for the next seven minutes. Nate Peters made a layup to tie the game at 30-30 before Dombrowski hit a jumper to give the Barons a 32-30 lead. Perkins nailed a three in the corner in the final 15 seconds of the half to give Franciscan a 35-30 lead going into halftime.
"John Paul has gotten really comfortable now in the last three and half weeks," complimented head coach Joe Wallace. "He hasn't seen the tangible results because of limited minutes but he is a big presence for us. Having him down the stretch with the way he is playing right now is going to be really big. Other teams are going to have a hard time handling him. And now Matt (Trent) is finally getting his confidence that he has as a player and the two of them are going to be a tough 1-2 combo to stop for other teams."
Leading the Barons was Perkins with 27 points while Trent posted a 19 point, 15 rebound double-double. Dombrowski chipped in 11 points in 18 minutes. Senior Keoni Sablan dished out five assists while Hickey had three assists and seven points.
"It's not even tonight, but for the last three weeks Juwan has been playing really well," continued Coach Wallace. "It's on both ends. He is getting better on defense and is starting to really understand what we want. He's getting really comfortable and he just played tremendously today. He was the hot hand today and has been shooting really well. He has been putting the work in on the side and deserves it right now."
The Barons get back to AMCC action on Wednesday when they welcome Pitt.-Greensburg to Kuzma Court at 6pm.