ANGWIN – The one that nearly got away from the Pacific Union College Pioneers came back in the closing minutes and resulted in a victory against the visiting Embry-Riddle University Eagles of Prescott, Arizona, 77-72, in overtime on Saturday night.
The Eagles (8-11 overall, 2-7 CalPac) opened the game with an early two-point shot and extended their lead to 8-0 within the first three minutes before the Pioneers (8-10 overall, 5-4 CalPac) scored their first basket of the game. The Pioneers’ first half were characterized with strong, active plays made defensively but not offensively while the Eagles maintained their advantage.
In the closing minutes, junior Landre Powell made a two-point shot and one free to tie the game before senior Rae Hubbard powered the Pioneers into the lead with a three-point shot.
The Eagles quickly responded back by reassuming a narrow lead with the Pioneers in pursuit. While seniors Brandon Franklin, Noel Briones and Jayson Marquez each made two-point shots, the Eagles maintained the lead to claim the first half over the Pioneers as the score ended 30-28.
The Eagles opened the second half with a commanding lead over the Pioneers following a series of two- and three-point shots. While the Eagles dominated the early portion of the second half, the Pioneers struggled offensively and defensively.
Five minutes into the half, the Pioneers quickly responded back with three, three-point shots, two made by Jayson Marquez and the lone one made by Brandon Franklin. Midway, a two-point shot made by senior Devon Pinnock gave the Pioneers a narrow lead only to fall behind the Eagles following a series of three-point shots.
In the closing minutes of regulation, the Pioneers gained momentum towards the commanding Eagles in playing aggressively, with defensive plays and nailing late shots. A two-point shot made by junior Joseph Scott tied the game and resulted with both teams tied 61-61 and headed into overtime.
In overtime, the Eagles reassumed their lead and appeared to be in control and toward the win before the Pioneers narrowed their margin following two three-point shots made by Rae Hubbard and two free-throw shots by Brandon Franklin.
With the Pioneers back on track, a two-point shot made by Jayson Marquez placed the Pioneers back on top with a one-point advantage. A series of free-throws made by Marquez and Brandon Franklin were enough to keep the Pioneers ahead and hold off the Eagles to win the game.
Marquez scored 18 points to lead PUC. Hubbard had 15, Franklin had 11 and Pinnock had nine.
With the win, the Pioneers broke a tie against Cal Maritime and moved into third place in the CalPac standings. For Pioneers coach Greg Rahn, momentum and extra motivation kept the Pioneers on track that would lead to the win and their charge for the CalPac playoffs in February.
“(We’ve) got to be prepared,” said Rahn. “(We’ve) got to be ready and not have little mistakes like we had tonight. It’s amazing. We were being tested by the basketball gods because against any type of situation, we didn’t get it done. We made some errors down the stretch and then, capitalized. We got the win from that.
“I thought our guys held our composures tremendously, even in overtime when we got down five or six early. They didn’t crumble and knew they gotta play defensively. That’s exactly what they did. I just needed them to wake up.
“I thought we looked a little too lazy, too casual. In this league, it’s anybody’s night and if you play sloppy, teams are going to capitalize. (I) had to get into them a little bit, let them know that I believe in them. We went on a run and tied up (the game) pretty quick after that. They responded quick. Any night is anybody’s night.”
The next stop for the Pioneers will be at La Sierra University in Riverside, Calif., where they will play against La Sierra on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.