ALTOONA, Pa. – Penn State Altoona men's basketball came out on the losing end of a hard-fought Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference game Thursday night, when Franciscan University prevailed 99-91 in overtime in the Adler Arena.
In what has become a recent theme, Penn State Altoona (2-10, 1-5 AMCC) dug itself into a hole, battled back late in the second half, but ultimately fell short of the win.
Franciscan (7-6, 3-3 AMCC) led by 15 points during the second half of Thursday's game before the Lions charged back and tied the score on their final possession in regulation. But the Barons won the overtime period by a 15-7 margin, escaping with an eight-point win.
"Tough loss tonight at home against a very, very improved Franciscan team. Coach [Joe] Wallace has done a great job with that program, and Franciscan is a much-improved team – and they showed it tonight," said Penn State Altoona head coach David McGreal. "I'm very proud of my guys for fighting for 40 minutes to get back in the game and give us an opportunity to win by pushing it to overtime."
Despite the loss, Penn State Altoona junior center Cameron Gardner-Nicholson (Philadelphia, PA/Boys' Latin Charter) had an historic night by establishing two new single game program records. Gardner-Nicholson set a new Lions single game record for rebounds, grabbing 22 boards to surpass the previous record of 20, which was set on November 21, 2000 by T.J. King. Gardner-Nicholson also set a new team record for the most shots blocked in a game, recording eight blocks on Thursday to surpass the previous record of seven, which was set by Matt Gehret on January 9, 2013.
Gardner-Nicholson also scored 18 points for the Lions to clinch his fifth double-double of the season.
"I can't say enough about Cam's performance," said McGreal. "He nearly finished with a triple-double. He was all over the boards and was rim protecting."
Meanwhile, Austin Krise (Allport, PA/West Branch) scored a career-high 20 points to lead Penn State Altoona in scoring, and he also grabbed seven rebounds and recorded a team-best three steals. Jack Kusters (Quakertown, PA/Lansdale Catholic) finished with 19 points.
Jalen Archie-Davis (Norcross, GA/Norcross) dished out a season-high nine assists while adding eight points and seven rebounds, and Tyson West (Wheeling, WV/Linsly School) blocked a career-high five shots while scoring nine points. Danny Browne (Downingtown, PA/Bishop Shanahan) and Rogelio Christian-Olan (Orlando, FL/Life Christian Academy) added six points each.
As a team, Penn State Altoona finished with 14 blocks, the most blocks in a single game in program history.
Franciscan got a game-high 27 points from Sean Hickey, while Juwan Perkins posted a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Joe Schriner added 15 points for the Barons, and Travis Lien finished with 14 points.
Penn State Altoona got off to a hot start, opening the game on a 9-0 run. Krise's three-pointer and Kusters' jumper started the scoring, and a Gardner-Nicholson layup and two Archie-Davis free throws made it a nine-point game by 16:34.
But Franciscan responded with a 9-0 run of its own, capped by Hickey's layup at 14:32 that tied the score. Later, Hickey's jumper and Lien's three-pointer put the Barons up 21-15 by the 9:54 mark. Justin Mack's trey at 8:01 gave the visitors a 10-point lead, 30-20, and Perkins' layup at 6:22 gave the Barons a 34-21 advantage.
Baskets from West and Browne within the final 1:03 of the first half helped bring Penn State Altoona back to within eight points, 42-34.
But Franciscan added to its lead in the early portion of the second half. Three-pointers from Lien and Hickey, along with a Schriner layup, helped the Barons grab their largest lead of the game, 59-44. A pair of scores from Lien kept Franciscan up by 11 points, 64-53, at 10:32.
Penn State Altoona persisted and worked its deficit back into single digits. Layups from Archie-Davis and Krise narrowed Franciscan's lead to six, 67-61, by 8:04. Kusters' four-point play at 6:32 closed the gap to 68-65, when he hit a three-pointer and then made the ensuing foul shot.
The Barons went on an 8-1 run to boost their lead back into double digits. Back-to-back three-pointers by Hickey started the run, and Perkins' free throws at 4:48 gave Franciscan a 76-66 lead.
The Lions made another push, however. After a Gardner-Nicholson layup and Krise free throw, Kusters notched his second four-point play of the half when he connected from beyond the arc, was fouled, and hit the free throw to cut Franciscan's lead to 77-75 at 2:34.
West's three-pointer with 48 seconds left kept Penn State Altoona within three points, 83-80, and two Gardner-Nicholson foul shots with 10 seconds remaining whittled the Barons' lead down to 83-82. After Franciscan picked up one point on a free throw in its next possession, Archie-Davis made a layup with less than one second left on the clock to tie the score 84-84 and send the game into overtime.
After Perkins' three-pointer opened the overtime scoring for Franciscan, Kusters' layup and a Gardner-Nicholson foul shot tied the score 87-87 by the three-minute mark. A layup from Gardner-Nicholson at 2:37 kept the score knotted, 89-89.
But the Barons outscored Penn State Altoona 10-2 over the rest of the period. Free throws from John Noce and Hickey gave the Barons a 91-89 lead at 2:16, and Hickey's layup at 1:03 extended it to 93-89. Schriner added a layup and four free throws in the game's final 31 seconds to help Franciscan clinch the win.