Senior point guard hits two game-winning shots in a row
Published: Thursday, February 21, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 21, 2013 14:02
For the second game in a row, senior Tony Johnson coolly drained the game-clinching shot.
“I was thinking about calling a timeout to put [sophomore] Seth Hinrichs in,” Head Coach Fran O’Hanlon said post-game. “But we had the ball in our best player’s hands. It was best to keep it there, and he stepped up.”
The Leopards trailed by as much as 13 during the game. With less than two minutes to go, they were down 76-70. Johnson made a layup with 1:33 left and was hacked in the act. He sunk the free throw to convert the three-point play and cut Holy Cross’s lead in half. A Hinrichs three-ball knotted the score at 76 with 53 seconds remaining. The ball ended up in Johnson’s hands with 34 seconds to go. The veteran milked the shot clock down to two seconds before nailing a three over Holy Cross’s Justin Burrell ‘15 with 3.5 left on the game clock.
It was the Leopards’ first lead of the game, and Johnson’s shot ended up being the final bucket of the game. After Lafayette inexplicably hit the rafters on an inbounds pass, the Crusaders called a timeout, but did not get the ball inbounds in time to avoid a five-second violation. They did not touch the ball again.
Johnson had pulled off similar heroics the game before, when he sank a pull-up jumper with 4.5 seconds left to hoist Lafayette to a 63-62 victory over league-leading Bucknell. The two wins now give Lafayette (14-14, 7-4) a .500 record overall and puts them a game behind Lehigh for the number two spot in the Patriot League standings.
The Leopards won Wednesday’s contest against Holy Cross despite a white-hot shooting night from Holy Cross. The Crusaders shot a blistering 67 percent from the floor, and scored two more three-pointers than Lafayette. However, Lafayette knocked down 14 freebies to Holy Cross’s nine. That, coupled with Johnson’s game-high 20 points, proved to be the difference. Lafayette was also assisted by a favorable turnover differential (11-20), a trademark of O’Hanlon’s squad this season.
The Leopards can gain control of the No. 2 seed in the conference with a win on Sunday, at least temporarily. O’Hanlon, however, is not counting on even hosting an opening-round tournament game. The Leopards still have to fend off Army (13-13, 6-5) who are a game behind Lafayette and have already soundly defeated them twice this season.
“We’re in a decent position,” O’Hanlon said. “But there are still three games left to play in the regular season. Tiebreakers go to Army, one of the better teams we’ve played this year.”
The first game, played on Sunday, will be against the rival Mountain Hawks of Lehigh. In the first meeting, Lafayette ran away with a decisive 78-57 victory. Lehigh’s star point guard C.J. McCollum ‘13 will most likely not risk a return after breaking a bone in his foot in January, but Lafayette cannot afford to take the Mountain Hawks lightly.
With a trio of games left against Lehigh, Colgate, and American, Lafayette can clinch home-court advantage in the first round of the PL tourney with two wins and an Army loss. They can also lock up the second seed with two wins and an additional Lehigh loss, and home court advantage throughout the tournament with three wins and at least one Bucknell loss.
The final stretch of the season begins noon this Sunday against Lehigh in Kirby Sports Center.