NORTH MANCHESTER, IND. – In a frenetic Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference clash that saw six ties and six lead changes, the final outcome wasn't decided until the final three minutes Wednesday, Jan. 13.
Manchester University, winning its fourth successive and for the sixth time in the last seven contests, overcame a furious mid-second half comeback from visiting Bluffton University to claim a 67-62 decision inside Stauffer-Wolfe Arena. The Spartans, improving to 9-6 overall and 5-2 in the league, trailed the Beavers (8-6 overall, 3-4 HCAC) 6-2 less than three minutes in but answered with five straight points of its own, and the see-saw affair was on.
A 12-5 stretch over the last 5:19 of the first stanza gave the hosts a 35-28 halftime advantage. They extended the margin to as much as nine at several points in the second 20 minutes, but BU replied with a string of nine consecutive points to reel in a 52-43 deficit at 52-52 with 6:25 left. MU got out to a 63-59 lead, but the visitors canned a three to make it 63-62 with only 1:05 left. From that point, the underclassman duo of freshman guard Adrian Johnson (Indianapolis, Ind.) and sophomore forward Enis Becirevic (Fort Wayne, Ind.) stepped to the forefront. Johnson canned four successive free throws and Becirevic, with the lead at just 65-62 in the waning moments, rebounded a missed free throw and stuck it back in to give the Spartans the final five-point victory.
"Right now, the guys are refusing to give up," Coach Gerad Good said. "We kept our resolve tonight after fighting through some adversity. Every game has an ebb and flow, but the team that can sustain that comes out ahead. We were able to do that."
"Efforts like you've seen from Enis are why this level of basketball is so great," he added. "His want to, desire and fight is fun to watch. It's also very contagious within the team, as he practices like he plays. The way he went after it tonight is the way he goes every day."
Beciveic came off the bench for a 12-point, two-assist, one-blocked shot, five-rebound evening. He also didn't commit a turnover in 22 minutes. Senior guard Brady Dolezal (Tipton, Ind.) also was in double figures, tallying 10 points to go with a co-team-high two steals and two blocked shots which was a squad high, and Johnson resumed a sparkling first collegiate campaign with 27 points, two steals and five rebounds.
The Black and Gold continue a brief two-game home stand Saturday, Jan. 16. Transylvania University of Kentucky comes to Stauffer-Wolfe Arena for a 3 p.m. tipoff.
NOTES: Johnson extended a personal double-digit scoring streak to seven successive games. He's been at 20-points-or-more four times in the span to see his points per game average soar to 16.7 per game from 13.6 prior … Becirevic's 12 points marked a personal single-game career high. He continued to be consistent in field goal percentage, hitting five of six attempts for 83.3 which was 12th time this season the sophomore has been at-or-above 50 percent … The win moved MU into a tie for second on the loop standings, just a game behind HCAC-leading Mt. St. Joseph University as part of a three-way tie with Defiance College and Hanover College.