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Foresters hold off Goshen

POINTS: Sophomore guard Zac Owens drained 18 points to tie for the team lead in Huntington’s 75–51 victory over Goshen on Tuesday night.

by Eric Andrews - eandrews@h-ponline.com

The Huntington University men’s basketball team survived a second-half comeback bid from Goshen to outlast the Maple Leafs 75–51 in a Crossroads League battle on Tuesday night in Platt Arena.

The win lifted the Foresters’ season record to 16–11, including 6–9 in Crossroads League competitions.

Huntington took charge of the game from the get-go, storming out to a 9–2 lead just over two minutes into the contest. While Goshen would answer with a three-pointer, the Foresters would pour in the next 10 points to open up a 19–5 lead.

A 7–0 run later in the half would push Huntington’s lead to 28–11 with 8:15 left in the period. While things would even out the rest of the first half, the Foresters took a 44–26 advantage into halftime.

“I thought we just came out of the gate with a good focus about us,” said head coach Ty Platt. “Our guys knew they had just beaten (Indiana) Wesleyan. We knew that they’d have a shot in the arm of adrenaline from that and we had to respond because that victory they had just proves how good this conference is and how anybody can beat anybody.”

However, Goshen would not go away quietly. The Maple Leafs opened up the second half on a 16–4 run to take a large chunk out of their deficit, cutting the Huntington lead to just six points at 48–42 with 12:40 to play.

While the Foresters would stop the bleeding and the teams played even basketball over the next four minutes, Huntington then rattled off a 19–2 run to restore a commanding 25-point lead at 75–50 with 1:16 left to play. The Maple Leafs would sink one free throw the rest of the way, resulting in the Foresters coming away with the 75–51 victory.

“I thought defensively we were really good for the most part,” Platt said. “We had a little lull there in the second half where they came back and we got a little panicked in the press that they put on us, but the 12 or 13 stops that we got to finish the game before the (Goshen’s Demarkus) Stuckey foul there late was the whole thing. We just had stop after stop after stop, and that’s what you gotta do and I thought our guys responded well. We didn’t panic and came away with a victory.”

Freshman forward Caleb Middlesworth and sophomore guard Zac Owens both scored 18 points to lead the way for Huntington. Middlesworth posted a game-high three blocks and added five rebounds and one assist. Owens also grabbed five rebounds and swiped one steal, as well as dishing out a team-best four assists.

Senior forward Tyler Arens finished the Foresters’ double-digit production with 15 points. Arens filled up the rest of the stat sheet as well, recording two assists, one block, one steal and a game-leading eight rebounds.

Freshman guard Peyton West and junior guard Konner Platt rounded out the starting lineup for Huntington with seven and five points, respectively. West added two rebounds, a pair of assists and one steal, while Konner Platt finished his night with three assists, two rebounds and one steal.

Freshman guard James Gardner led the Foresters’ bench with six points, a new career-best mark. Gardner also tied Arens for the game lead with eight rebounds, another career-high total. Gardner added two assists and two steals to finish his showing.

Freshman forward Spencer Ballinger and junior forward Andrew Yoder capped off the Huntington offense with four and two points, respectively. Ballinger grabbed one rebound and blocked one shot, while Yoder hauled in six rebounds, blocked one shot and handed out one assist.

Alhassan Barrie led Goshen with a game-high 19 points and added team-high totals of seven rebounds, two blocks and two steals.

Austin Branagan scored 14 points for the Maple Leafs and reeled in six rebounds and one steal, while Stuckey’s eight points finished the Goshen scoring podium. Stuckey also grabbed four rebounds and doled out a game-high six assists.

“When you pour yourself into the defensive end and your effort on that end is all you’re focusing on, the offense just comes so much more natural and so much more fluid,” Ty Platt said. “I thought that that’s what happened; our defense led to good shots and we were moving the basketball (and) had good team play. So, overall, really proud of our guys.”

Up next for the Foresters is another Crossroads League duel, this time against No. 5 Indiana Wesleyan.

Huntington and Indiana Wesleyan faced off on Jan. 12 in Platt Arena, with the then-No. 3 Wildcats coming away with a 105–69 win.

“Indiana Wesleyan is just really, really good,” Ty Platt said. “They were missing (Grant) Smith when they played Goshen and I know that (Indiana Wesleyan head) coach (Greg) Tonagel will probably get them refocused here this week. It’s always a tough place to play down there, but we’ll just go give it everything we’ve got and see what happens. … We have confidence about us. We think we can (win), but you gotta go out and prove it, and when you (have) a good opponent like (Indiana) Wesleyan, you gotta really bring it for 40 minutes, so we’ll try to do everything we can to make that happen.”

Opening tip-off for the matchup is scheduled for 3 p.m. in Marion, Indiana.