American beats Bucknell in Patriot League tournament quarterfinals
Third time’s the charm for AU
The Eagles had already lost to the Bison twice this season. American was seeded seventh in the tournament and Bucknell was seeded 10th, allowing the teams to face off for a third time this season.
Bender Arena was packed for the quarter final tournament game. American’s student section was loud, adding an electric energy to the gym.
“It gives us momentum. It helps us achieve what we need to get done,” sophomore guard Elijah Stephens said.
Bucknell won the tip-off, but with the help from junior forward Matt Rogers, American was able to put in the first points of the game. The two teams traded baskets until a dunk from Rogers put the Eagles up 2 going into the first media time out of the game.
Bucknell and American continued to fight for the lead until the Eagles went on a 11-3 run, including baskets from Rogers and junior guard Lorenzo Donadio and two 3-pointers from junior forward Johnny O’Neil.
The Bison refused to roll over and fought back against the Eagles’ lead, bringing themselves within 6. A 3-point basket from Donadio put American up 34-29 at the half.
The Eagles were able to keep their momentum going into the second half. Rogers put in a layup to increase the Eagles’ lead to 7.
The two teams continued to trade baskets and Bucknell began chipping away at American’s lead until Stephens put in an and one, putting the Eagles up by 7.
Freshman center Jermaine Ballisager Webb drew a foul, making both of his free throws, and Rogers threw down a dunk to put the Eagles up 51-43.
The Bison responded with back-to-back baskets of their own, pulling within 5 points of the Eagles. Bucknell scored again, bringing them within a basket of American, 54-52, with only four minutes left to play.
A layup from Stephens put the Eagles up by 4. Bucknell pulled within 1 point of American off of three made free-throws with 1:50 left on the clock.
The Eagles outscored the Bison 6-2 in the final minutes with baskets from O’Neil and Stephens, holding off Bucknell for a 64-59 victory.
“They’re one of the best 10th place teams you’re going to find. That was a good team and we had to play our best to beat them,” head coach Mike Brennan said.
O’Neil led the Eagles with 19 points and 8 rebounds, Stephens added 18, Rogers contributed 14 points and 13 rebounds and Donadio added 10.
American will travel to Annapolis to play the Naval Academy Midshipman in the Patriot League Tournament Quarterfinals on March 2nd at 7 pm.
“We need to learn from our first two games against them and do what we do,” O’Neil said.
This article was edited by Penelope Jennings and Nina Heller. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis and Natasha LaChac.