STEUBENVILLE – As the seconds ticked off the clock and trailing by one point, the Franciscan men's basketball team came up with a huge defensive stop but the Barons couldn't get the final shot of the game to fall as they fell to Hilbert 67-66 on Kuzma Court, Saturday afternoon.
With 2:43 to play, the Barons found themselves down by eight points, 67-59. Senior Jacob Divens missed a layup but the team gathered the offensive rebound and sophomore Joe Schriner drew a foul. After knocking down both free throws, the Baron defense went to work. Masia Philips missed a short jumper after using most of the shot clock and sophomore Matt Trent pulled down the rebound and was promptly fouled by Anthony Buisch. Despite struggling early in the game at the line, Trent was cool under pressure and hit both of his free throws to cut the Hawk lead to four, 67-63, with 1:33 to play in regulation.
The Hawks once again used most of their shot clock but the Barons defense once again was able to cause an unbalanced shot and collected a defensive rebound. Freshman Sean Hickey took a pass from Divens just beyond the arc and made a three-pointer look easy to get the Barons to within one, 67-66, with just 42 seconds left. As the Hawks final possession wound down, Antoino Alvarez put up a desperation jumper but couldn't get it to fall and Schriner fought for the desperation board. Divens was able to quickly get the ball to the sideline in front of the Baron bench with 12 seconds left on the clock.
Head coach Joe Wallace drew up the final play of the game but the Barons' shot as time expired just missed going in as the Hawks barely held on to a 67-66 win.
"I️'m so proud of these guys," remarked Coach Wallace following the game. "They showed what the Franciscan Mentality is all about. I believe we have one last run left in us to get to the conference tournament."
Despite trailing 15-12 after the first eight minutes of the game, the Barons showed their grit as they battled back to 16-15 lead, thanks to a fast break dunk from Trent and a jumper from Hickey. The Barons pushed their lead to 18-15 with a layup from Schriner before Myles Hervey trimmed the gap to two, 18-16, with a free throw. The Hawks eventually tied the game at 20-20 with 7:56 to go and eventually 28-28 with 5:13 to play. Junior Juwan Perkins sparked an 8-0 run for the Barons with a layup with 4:22 to play and capped the run with a long three at the 3:09 mark to give Franciscan it's largest lead of the game, 36-38.
"Juwan made huge shots and really sparked us," complimented Coach Wallace. "We will need him to stay consistent down these last few weeks."
The Hawks were able to tie the game at 39-39 with 1:04 to play but the Barons had the last bucket of the half as Trent made a short jumper with 29 seconds left before the break and the Barons were able to force a turnover on the Hawks last possession to give Franciscan a 41-39 lead at halftime.
1:05 into the second half, the Hawks were able to tie the game at 41-41, but Divens completed the traditional three-point play with giving the Barons a 44-41 lead with 17:32 to play in the game. Franciscan eventually pushed its lead to 53-47 with 13:05 to play before Hilbert tied the game at 53-53 with 11:22 left. The lead changed hands three times before Hilbert took its largest lead of the game, 65-57, with 3:28 to play. After a pair of Trent free throws, Hunter Martineau made the final Hawk jumper with 2:43 to play to give Hilbert a 67-59 lead and set up the late dramatics for the Barons and get the Finnegan faithful on their feet.
"We want to thank the students, pep band, and fans who made Kuzma Court a loud and enthusiastic place to watch a college basketball game," remarked Coach Wallace. "it was such an awesome environment today and was by far the best since I've been here."
The Barons had outstanding performances from Trent and Perkins and the entire Baron defense. Trent finished the game with his second-straight double-double with 19 points and 17 rebounds. Trent was 6-for-16 from the floor and 7-for-10 from the free throw line. 10 of Trent's rebounds came off the offensive glass. The sophomore added an assist, a steal, and a block to his line against Hilbert.
"Matt put together another huge game and is starting to establish himself as a dominant player," said Coach Wallace.
Perkins finished the day with 14 points and was 5-for-11 from the floor. Divens handed out four assists to go with his three points while senior JP Dombrowski posted six points, four rebounds and a steal for the Barons. The Barons picked up seven steals and forced 17 turnovers for the game.
Prior to the game, the Franciscan athletic department honored the memory of the legendary late coach Hank Kuzma and the 60th anniversay of the 1958 National Championship team.
Franciscan hits the road for its final road trip of the regular season as the Barons head to Pitt.-Greensburg on Wednesday, February 7 for a 6 pm tip-off.