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Wednesday, January 30, 2002

Widener Halts Etown's Record Win Streak at 16, Pioneers Win 79-77 in Elizabethtown

ELIZABETHTOWN, Pa. --- Elizabethtown's program-record winning streak ended at 16 games Wednesday night, as visiting Widener handed the Blue Jays their first loss since November 20. Etown, ranked fourth in the nation in both the and the Basketball America NCAA Division III polls, fell in a topsy-turvy 79-77 contest to the Pioneers, the defending Commonwealth Conference champions who defeated Etown for the conference crown in the championship game last year.

The loss drops Elizabethtown to 18-2 overall and 8-1 in the Commonwealth Conference, while Widener improves to 15-5 overall and 8-1 in the conference. What's more, the two teams are now locked in a tie for first place in the Commonwealth with their only conference losses coming at the hands of each other. Etown defeated Widener 95-83 in Chester December 5.

The loss was also only Etown's second at Thompson Gymnasium in the past two years; the team has won 22 home games in that span. Widener is now 12-1 in its last 13 games.

Etown jumped out to an 11-4 lead in the opening five minutes of the game. From there, the game remained fairly even for the next ten minutes, with Etown maintaining its seven-point lead, 28-21, with 6:00 left to go in the half. By controlling play under the basket, Widener managed to cut Etown's lead to two, 37-35, by halftime.

Widener took the lead for the first time with 18:33 remaining in the second half, 39-38, on a basket by Markiese Merceir (Philadelphia, PA/Mastbaum). The Pioneers went up by four, 51-47, at 13:53 on a lay-up by Bilal McAfee (Philadelphia, PA/Abraham Lincoln).

Elizabethtown regained the lead at 8:34, 60-59, after Ian Daecher (Lititz, PA/Warwick) made two consecutive lay-ups. The Blue Jays pulled ahead by six, 65-59, at 6:50 on a lay-up by Jon English (Haddonfield, NJ/Haddon Township), and again, 68-62, at 5:36 on a pair of foul shots by Rocky Parise (Harrisburg, PA/Bishop McDevitt).

From that Etown apogee, Widener again chipped away at the Blue Jays' lead until the Pioneers went ahead, 72-70, with 3:04 left to play on a lay-up by Mike Siuchta (Royersford, PA/Spring Ford). Etown tied the game at 72-72 with 2:43 left to play on an English lay-up.

Widener pulled ahead again on a three-pointer by Siuchta that made the score 75-72 with 2:19 remaining. Another English lay-up at 2:10 and a one-for-two stint at the free throw line by Brian Loftus (Doylestown, PA/Central Bucks West) again tied the score at 75-75 with 1:26 left. The Pioneers went ahead for good, 78-75, on a Siuchta three-pointer at 1:04.

Siuchta led Widener in scoring and rebounding with 18 points and nine boards. Both of his three-pointers came in the final two and a half minutes of the game. Casey Stitzel (Quakertown, PA/Lansdale Catholic) scored 17 points for the Pioneers, including two three-pointers. Tim Whalen (Line Lexington, PA/Archbishop Wood) scored 12 points and haled in eight rebounds, Chaz Williamson (Philadelphia, PA/Mastbaum) scored 11 points and had six assists, and McAfee scored 10 points for Widener.

English led Elizabethtown with 24 points, including an 11-for-18 performance from the field. He also had 10 rebounds for a double-double. Loftus added 15 points and had five assists for Etown. Daecher came off the bench to score 10 points for the Blue Jays. Parise led Etown with nine assists, and Bob Porambo (Bethlehem, PA/Liberty) led the team with 12 rebounds while scoring nine points.

Widener out-rebounded Etown 44-43, and had 14 turnovers against 13 for the Blue Jays. Nine of Etown's turnovers came in the second half, while eight of Widener's came in the first half.

Widener shot only 38.9% (14-for-36) from the field in the first half, but improved to 47.4% (18-for-38) in the second half. Etown's chiasmus with Widener in shooting between halves paralleled the teams' respective turnover performances, with Etown shooting 48.5% (16-for-33) in the first half, but dropping to 45.7% (16-for-35) in the second half.

Also, Etown shot an uncharacteristically low 55.6% (10-for-18) from the foul line in the game, while Widener shot 11-for-16 (68.8%) from the charity stripe.

The Blue Jays will return to action at home against conference rival Juniata Saturday, February 2 for a 4:00 p.m. tipoff.

View the box score.