January 30, 2014
Spirited Second Half Comeback Falls Short in 69-66 Firebirds Loss at Mercy
DOBBS FERRY, NY – With just seven players in the lineup, the Firebirds still nearly came all the way back from down by as many as 15 in the second half, but a pair of free-throws by Mercy's Terrance Murchie with two seconds left in regulation sealed the Mavericks' 69-66 victory in Thursday night's East Coast Conference matchup.
Sophomore guard Omar Abbas (Electrical Engineering – Alexandria, Egypt/Egyptian American HS) and junior transfer forward Lenjo Kilo carried the majority of the scoring load for the Firebirds, who lost their sixth straight game to fall to 3-13 overall (1-9 ECC). Abbas led all scorers with 24 points on 7-of-14 FG shooting, including 6-of-11 from three-point range and a perfect 4-of-4 at the free-throw line. Kilo notched his sixth double-double of the season with 20 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. Junior transfer guard Prince Ritson (Psychology – Greenbelt, MD/Bowie St.) also pitched in 12 points, 10 of which came in the second half.
Mercy featured a balanced attack which saw four of its five starters score in double-figures, led by Murchie's 15 points and P.J. Walters' 14. The Mavericks (2-17, 2-11 ECC) were the more efficient offensive team with 12 assists and just seven turnovers while the Firebirds totaled 11 assists and 18 turnovers. Mercy turned UDC's 18 turnovers into 21 points on the night, which ultimately helped them even the season series with the Firebirds after UDC earned an 83-66 victory back on December 14th the last time these two schools met in the nation's capital.
The Mavericks jumped out to a 14-5 lead a little over seven minutes into the action when UDC first-year head coach Mike Riley called a timeout to settle his team down. Out of the timeout, Abbas knocked down a three-pointer and later a pair of free-throws to cut the lead down to four, 14-10. The Mercy lead hovered between four and seven for the next couple of minutes when a 5-0 Firebirds mini-surge brought UDC within two, 22-20 with 5:24 to play in the first half. But at that point, the Mavericks used an 8-0 run comprised of four consecutive layups to bolster their lead back up to 10 with just under three minutes remaining. They would take that 10-point margin (37-27) into the locker room for halftime.
Still a 10-point game nearly five minutes into the second half, Mercy went on a 5-0 run to take its largest lead of the night, 52-37 near the 13-minute mark. For the next 10 minutes, UDC out-scored the Mavericks 18-5, pulling within two (57-55) after a conventional three-point play by Kilo (who made 8-of-10 at the free-throw line on the night) with 2:46 remaining in regulation. But Mercy responded with a 6-1 run to up its lead to 63-56 with 1:24 to play.
Still a six-point Mavericks lead with 26 seconds remaining, Ritson was fouled in the act of shooting a three-pointer, and sank all three at the line to make the score 66-63. The Firebirds then fouled Walters, who made his first shot but missed the second. Walters rushed into the lane to follow his own missed free-throw, but then missed the follow, and Kilo snagged the rebound. Kilo sent an outlet pass to Ritson, who quickly worked his way up the floor and buried his first and only three-pointer of the game to bring the Firebirds within one, 67-66 with three ticks remaining. Kilo fouled out of the game in an effort to stop the clock with two seconds left which sent Murchie to the line to shoot two. Murchie made them both, and Ritson could not get a half-court heave to fall at the buzzer as the home Mavericks held on for the victory.
The Firebirds will look to end their six-game losing slide when they host league foe St. Thomas Aquinas on Saturday, February 1st at 4 p.m. for Youth Day at UDC Gym.