COCOLAMUS - Down by as many as 10 points in the first half, the Mount Union boys basketball team came out of the intermission sporting a full court press that set East Juniata off balance, turning that deficit into a four-point, 50-46 non-league victory on the road Monday night.
The fast-paced, second-half tempo was just what the doctor ordered for the young and scrappy Trojans as they were led by B.J. Loner and Kahlil Fortson, each of whom notched 13 points on the evening. Fortson also finished with a double-double, pulling down 11 rebounds.
Jamal Smith and Kenny Simmons both finished with solid eight-point efforts en route to the victory.
"Give East Juniata credit - they opened the game, taking the ball to the hoop and finishing their shots. We did not," Mount Union coach Joe Komir said. "In the second half, we added more pressure and mixed it up a little, using a 1-3-1 defense, a little bit of man. But I think the kids responded. I thought they played a good second half."
East Juniata got a strong effort offensively from sharpshooter Nick Lorenz, who finished with a game high 22 points. Center Bailey Coder also finished the game with a double-double, scoring 10 points while tearing down 18 boards.
As the third quarter got under way, the Trojans went right to work by putting pressure on the guards, forcing numerous East Juniata miscues in the early minutes of the period.
IF YOU GO
East Juniata hosts Upper Dauphin Thursday
Mount Union travels to Glendale Friday
The Tigers held a 26-19 lead as the two teams went into the half.
However, Mount Union opened the second half going on a 6-3 run, cutting the East Juniata lead to 29-25. In the run, it was scoring by committee as Loner, Anthony Gilbert and Kenny Simmons all took their turns at the net.
Lorenz and Coder kept the Tigers in the game, despite being outscored 21-11 in the period.
But as the fourth quarter got under way, Mount Union had the advantage and the momentum, leading by a slim 38-37 margin.
"I think our youth, inexperience and mental toughness were put into play in the second half," East Juniata coach Brock Anders said. "I thought a lot of spots we didn't respond real well. I thought they took advantage of that. That is a glaring weakness we need to focus on and practice on as we continue through the season so we have our work cut out for us."
In the final stanza, the Trojans were able to hold off every attempt of an East Juniata comeback.
With less than a minute left in the contest, Mount Union's Loner came through in the clutch, hitting two of five from the charity stripe and most importantly was able to keep the ball out of the hands of the strong perimeter shooters of East Juniata.
As the final seconds ticked down, the Trojans were able to run off the clock successfully and take a road victory and improve their record to 3-0 while East Juniata suffered its first loss, falling to 2-1.
East Juniata came out strong in the first half, outscoring Mount Union 10-6 in the first quarter and then 16-11 in the second.
In that span, Lorenz had the hot hand posting 13 points, also leading all scorers.