EMU Edges Eagles
Royals Win, 80-75; They’ve Beaten BC In 8 Of 9 Games
BRIDGEWATER — The Bridgewater College basketball team trailed Eastern Mennonite University for almost 39 minutes Wednesday night before taking a 75-74 lead with 1:09 left in the second half.
It didn’t last long.
EMU senior guard RJ Sims slashed into the lane and hit a heavily contested layup with 45 seconds left and the Royals finished the game on a 6-0 run to defeat the Eagles 80-75 in front of 882 fans at Nininger Hall.
“For us, the one kid that’s made the play every time we’ve played Bridgewater for the last three years has been RJ Sims,” EMU coach Kirby Dean said. “He always comes up and makes a play when we need it.”
In EMU’s 62-54 win over BC on Jan. 15, Sims scored 16 points – including 14 in the second half – to lead the Royals to the rivalry win. He also hit a game-winning shot with 8.5 seconds left to beat BC last season.
Wednesday, he finished with a quiet seven points, overshadowed by teammates Marcel Crump and Kwa McDonald, who finished with 20 and 16 points, respectively.
But no bucket was bigger than Sims’, who ended a 22-8 Bridgewater run with his layup.
“It’s just one of those things where I give credit to Eastern Mennonite – they made shots when they needed to make shots,” BC coach Don Burgess said.
EMU (14-10 overall, 9-6 in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference) led by as many as 13 points in the first half, thanks in large part to McDonald’s 14 points on three 3-pointers. As a team, the Royals hit seven treys in the first half, while Bridgewater made just two the whole game.
The loss came on Senior Night for the Eagles, who honored seven players before the game. One of those seniors, guard Ronnie Thomas, repeatedly came up large to keep BC in the game, finishing with 22 points in his final home game. During BC’s late run, Thomas had 10 points, including BC’s only two 3-pointers.
“Senior night, rivalry night, it doesn’t really matter, we needed to win to move up in the standings,” Thomas said. “We needed to take care of business at home. It hurts just because it’s another game.”
BC junior forward Ed Reddick had 25 points and added eight rebounds for the Eagles, who fell to 12-11 overall and 7-8 in the ODAC. The Eagles find themselves tied for seventh place in the ODAC, while the win keeps the Royals in fifth place in the ODAC standings with one regular-season game remaining.
Thomas dismissed sophomore guard Zach Hunter’s two missed free throws on the possession after Sims gave EMU back the lead as a backbreaker. Senior wing Tavis Stapleton’s blocked layup with 15 seconds left, Thomas said, wasn’t the difference, either.
“We came up short, but we all did something along the way that didn’t put us in a winning situation at the end,” Thomas said.
Because of BC’s poor outside shooting, the Eagles attacked the rim at will, forcing Crump, McDonald and junior center David Falk into foul trouble in the second half. Bridgewater had 52 points in the paint and out-rebounded the Royals 40-39.
Falk, EMU’s lone post presence, finished with eight points and 15 rebounds. He blocked five shots and changed a lot more.
“It’s not just the shots he blocked… if you look back on the film, I bet they missed five shots just because they thought he was going to block it,” Dean said. “We’ve gotten him now and we’ve coached him up where he doesn’t try and block every one of them. He chooses his battles – he’ll swat one to half court and the next time he’ll just stand there, and a lot of the time they’ll miss both shots.”
Even a brief scuffle in the stands between opposing fans didn’t spoil the win for the Royals, who have won eight of the last nine matchups against the Eagles.
“We know these guys, we hang out and stuff,” Falk said. “It’s always a hype game to play and it was a good game to watch.”