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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Firebirds Suffer Heartbreaking, 71-69 Loss at Roberts Wesleyan

ROCHESTER, NY – A three-pointer by Roberts Wesleyan's Mike Stone with 13 seconds remaining in regulation sent the host Redhawks to a 71-69 victory over the University of the District of Columbia men's basketball team in East Coast Conference action Saturday at Voller Athletic Center.
The Firebirds (2-15, 1-8 ECC) have now lost five straight, including two consecutive two-point losses in the last four days. Meanwhile, the Redhawks snapped a seven-game losing streak and improved to 6-12 overall and 3-7 in league play. They also completed the season series sweep of the Firebirds in their first year as members of the ECC.
District of Columbia led for most of the second half, including a seven-point advantage at the 16:43 mark and a one-point lead (69-68) with 30 seconds left in the game. Unfortunately, Stone erupted for 14 of his team-high 19 points in the final period, which included what turned out to be the game-winning three-point shot with just 13 ticks remaining.
In what was a much more evenly-played game than the last meeting (a 77-67 win by Redhawks), Roberts Wesleyan held a slim advantage in field goal shooting (44-percent to 40-percent) and a sizable disparity in three-point shooting (7-of-16, 44-percent; 4-of-14, 29-percent). The Redhawks also controlled the boards with a 44-34 rebounding edge, out-scored the Firebirds, 23-5 in second-chance points, and nearly doubled-up District of Columbia in points in the paint, 41-22. Meanwhile, the Firebirds took excellent care of the basketball, committing only seven turnovers to the Redhawks' 10, and did a much better job getting to the free-throw line (22 attempts vs. 10). A dreadful 15-of-22 (68-percent) effort at the foul line, including a 9-of-14 performance in the second half, proved costly, however.
Stone registered the first points of the game on a layup 17 seconds into the game, but District of Columbia junior transfer guard Michael Terry (Criminal Justice – Philadelphia, PA/Boston U) answered right back with a three-pointer, and the Firebirds would control the lead for the next several minutes. A 5-0 Redhawks run, with all five points coming from Patrick Downer, resulted in Roberts Wesleyan grabbing its first lead of the game, 9-7 with 14:39 left to play in the first half. Downer would later help the Redhawks extend their lead to five (19-14) with a layup at the 10:33 mark.
Still trailing 29-24 with just under six minutes to play, the Firebirds mounted a 6-0 run, culminating in an and-one layup by junior transfer guard Ralph Watts (Sociology – Peekskill, NY/UAlbany). Watts' free-throw completing the three-point play made it 30-29, District of Columbia with 4:22 left to play in the first period. Later, junior transfer point guard Quasim Jones (Business  Management – Philadelphia, PA/Johnson CC), who led all scorers with 15 first half points, connected on a jumper with six seconds left to put his team in front, 37-35 at halftime.
The Firebirds outscored Roberts Wesleyan 9-4 in the opening 3:17 and took a seven-point lead (46-39), the largest advantage held by either team all afternoon. The Redhawks responded, however, with a 9-0 run that included six consecutive points by Tyrel Dixon and a three-pointer by Stone to give Roberts Wesleyan a brief, 48-46 lead. Four straight points by the Firebirds, including a pair of free-throws by Jones, gave District of Columbia the lead right back, 50-48 with 11:29 still remaining.
Roberts Wesleyan would force four ties in the next four minutes, but the Firebirds would not relinquish the lead until Mike Stone's three-pointer at the 7:18 mark put the Redhawks in front, 59-58.
Six lead changes and three ties would ensue in the final seven minutes, as the Firebirds looked to be in position to grab their third win of the season when senior transfer forward D'Angelo Johnson (Mass Media – Washington, DC/Virginia St.) sank a pair of free-throws to put District of Columbia ahead, 69-68. That only set the stage, however, for Stone's heroics, as he buried a clutch three-pointer with 13 seconds remaining. The Firebirds moved the ball past halfcourt and called a timeout with five seconds remaining to try and set up an inbounds play from beyond half court. Out of the timeout, Ralph Watts hoisted a three-point attempt at the buzzer, but it was no good.
The Firebirds featured three scorers in double-figures, including Quasim Jones (game-highs of 21 points and four assists), D'Angelo Johnson (19 points, team-high 14 rebounds) and Ralph Watts (11 points).
The Redhawks had four of their starting five score in double-figures, including Stone's 19, Patrick Downer's double-double of 17 points and game-high 16 rebounds, Tyrel Dixon's 15 points, six rebounds, and Devin Grimes' 10 points and nine rebounds.
District of Columbia will look to shake off its fourth loss this season by two points or less as the Firebirds host ECC foe Bridgeport for Military Appreciation Night on Wednesday, January 30th at 7 p.m.  

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