Huntington, Ind. - The Forester men’s basketball team (1-0) opened its season with a thrilling 82-73 overtime win against the visiting NAIA Division I University of St. Francis (Ill.) on Tuesday evening.
Behind the sophomore duo of TJ Short and Shane Merryman, the Foresters sizzled the nets in the first half by shooting 66.7% (16-for-24) from the field to take a 36-29 lead into intermission. The two classmates tag-teamed to score 24 of HU’s first 36 points.
The rims didn’t prove quite as friendly for the Foresters in the second stanza. After establishing a 50-41 lead with just under 11 minutes left in the period, things went south for HU. Over the final nine minutes of regulation, the Foresters committed five turnovers and managed only three field goals to open the door for the Fighting Saints who took full advantage of the situation. Down by four with just under a minute remaining, St. Francis capitalized on two HU turnovers to score five unanswered points and send the game into overtime.
The tides turned in the extra period thanks in large part to the play of freshman Justin Jantzi who scored ten of the Foresters’ 19 points in OT. After draining a three at the 4:09 mark to give HU a permanent lead at 68-65, he went 7-for-8 from the charity stripe in the final 90 seconds to seal the deal.
For the game, the Foresters shot 48.2% (27-for-56) from the floor and knocked down 79.3% (23-for-29) of their free tosses. They dominated the boards 43-25.
Short and Merryman finished with 20 points apiece to lead all scorers. Caleb Kennedy chipped in 15 points and a game-high 13 boards for the double double. Also scoring in double digits for the Foresters was Ryan Boester with 11 and Jantzi with 10. Derek Ciezczak and Andrew Lerg scored 14 points each to pace the Fighting Saints.
The Foresters travel to Goshen College this weekend where they will play the University of Windsor on Friday and Berea College on Saturday in the Maple Leaf Classic.