Worcester, Mass. - Tony Johnson's three-pointer with 3.5 seconds remaining gave Lafayette its only lead of the game as the Leopards snatched a 79-76 victory from Holy Cross on Wednesday night at Hart Recreation Center.
Facing a 76-70 hole with 1:33 to play, Lafayette (14-14, 7-4 Patriot) scored the final nine points, punctuated by Johnson's second game-clinching shot in as many games to erase a 13-point second-half deficit. The senior's drive and right-handed scoop layup cut Holy Cross' lead in half (76-73) before Seth Hinrichs came off a screen and buried a three to tie the score at 76-76 with under a minute to go. On the other end, Johnson stepped into the passing lane and intercepted a kick out attempt to set up Lafayette's final possession.
After the turnover, Johnson tried to feed Levi Giese in transition, but he was blocked from behind and the ball went out of bounds. A four-second differential between the shot and game clocks allowed Johnson to run the shot clock down and pull up for the winning three over Holy Cross' Justin Burrell (19 points).
Holy Cross (11-15, 3-8 Patriot) called timeout to set up its attempt to tie the game, but Dee Goens stepped out of bounds in the corner before he could take a shot at the basket. From the Leopards' defensive end, Hinrichs inbounded the ball down the other end of the floor toward Joey Ptasinski. With the ball in the air, the game clock was started prematurely and the teams were forced to replay the final two seconds. From there Hinrichs' pass hit a speaker on the ceiling and Holy Cross took over from the corner. Lafayette then forced a five-second call and Holy Cross fouled Ptasinski, with less than a second left, when he finally took the third pass attempt from Hinrichs. He missed his one-and-one free throw shot, but Holy Cross was unable to get off a shot at the buzzer.
Johnson led all scorers, and five Leopards in double figures, with 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting as the Leopards survived a 67.4 percent (29-of-43) shooting night by Holy Cross. Giese finished with 16 points, Bryce Scott and Dan Trist each tallied 13 and Hinrichs added 10. Lafayette was able to withstand the Crusaders' magnificent shooting performance by forcing 20 turnovers and knocking down 29-of-59 (49.2 percent) from the floor.
Holy Cross opened the game by hitting its first five three-point attempts and built a 21-9 lead five minutes in. The Leopards then strung together a 10-2 run and Scott's jumper pulled Lafayette within three (28-25) at the eight minute mark. A 9-2 spurt pushed the lead to 11 for the home team with a minute to play in the half, but a jumper followed by a steal by Johnson set up Giese for an old-fashioned three-point play on Lafayette's final possession to send the Leopards into the break trailing 45-39.
A pair of free throws by Seth Hinrichs pulled Lafayette within four points early in the second half, but Dave Dudzinski drilled a corner three against Lafayette's 1-3-1 zone to ignite a 9-0 run for the Crusaders. The stretch included a deep step back two by Burrell and a two-handed slam by Eric Obeysekere (11 points) to give Holy Cross a 13-point cushion and force a Lafayette timeout.
Trailing 63-50 following a Cullen Hamilton (18 points) triple, Lafayette used a 12-2 run to draw within three points at the 8:34 mark. The last six points were scored by Scott, a corner three after a drive and kick by Ptasinski, followed by a three-point play at the basket off a backdoor feed from Johnson.
Lafayette finally battled all the way back to tie the score at 67-67 after an offensive Flagrant One foul was called on Hamilton with just under six minutes to play. Zach Rufer made one of two at the line to tie the game, but Holy Cross came back with nine of the next 12 points, led by five from Burrell to take a 76-70 lead with 90 seconds remaining.
Lafayette returns home for a nationally-televised meeting with Lehigh on Sunday at noon. Opening tip from Kirby Sports Center can be seen live on CBS Sports Network. Game Notes:
Lafayette has won four consecutive games at Hart Recreation Center and three straight overall against Holy Cross.
Johnson's three steals moved him past Otis Ellis ’89 and into fifth on Lafayette's all-time steals list with 153.
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