FORT WAYNE, Ind. - In a game that came down to the final possession, the 4th-seeded Cougars of Saint Francis came up with a steal with just over a second remaining to seal a 67-66 win over the 5th-seeded Foresters of Huntington University Wednesday night in first round action of the MCC tourney at Hutzell Athletic Center.
With this loss, the Foresters wrap up their season with a 17-14 record. It was the Cougars’ third win over HU this season. The matchup was the 95th all-time meeting between these two teams with Huntington leading the series 51-44.
It wasn’t exactly how the Foresters had hoped their season would end. Trailing 67-63 inside a minute to go, MCC Player of the Year Caleb Kennedy converted an old-fashioned three point with 47 ticks remaining to pull the Foresters within one. On the ensuing possession USF stepped on the end line with 11 seconds remaining to turn the ball back to HU for the final play.
Knowing the Foresters would look to get the ball inside to Kennedy, Cougar guards Qadr Owens and Seth Small converged on Ryan Boester and once the dust settled, it was Owens who came up with the loose ball as time expired to deny HU a shot and an opportunity for a heroic finish.
Playing his final game in a Forester uniform, Kennedy poured in a game-high 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to notch his ninth double double this season. Shane Merryman added 16 points and Boester finished with 11.
After trailing through the first ten minutes of the final period, the Cougars got the lift they needed when Kevin Bloom buried a three and Dan Palombizio slammed one home to give USF a 55-50 lead. HU rallied to take a one-point lead on three occasions over the next five minutes but a Cougar bucket at the 4:38 mark put the home team up for good.
The Foresters didn’t down without a fight as they trimmed the lead to 65-63 behind a Kennedy bucket down low and two Merryman free throws before the Cougars scored what proved to be the game-winning bucket with 56 seconds remaining.
The first twenty minutes set the stage for things to come as it featured eight lead changes and four ties. HU jumped out to an early 6-0 lead before the Cougars stormed back to take an 18-11 lead with just over 12 minutes left in the first half. The Foresters responded with a 16-8 run highlighted by pair of threes from Boester and TJ Short to push HU back on top 27-26 at the 5:22 mark. The final score of the half came when Kennedy kissed one of the glass 53 seconds before the halftime buzzer to give the Foresters a slim 35-34 lead. Merryman led the first half attack with 10 points.
HU shot 46.3% for the game (25-for-54) while the Cougars finished 26-for-55 for 47.3%. Both teams committed 11 turnovers while the Cougars held a slight 32-31 edge on the boards.
Owens paced the Cougars with 18 points, Scott Kohne finished with 15 points and Kevin Dawson chipped in 11 points and 10 rebounds for the double double.