FROSTBURG — After trailing for the entirety of the second and third quarters, Kris Jenkins gave Gonzaga its first lead in almost a half by draining a three-pointer with 1:24 remaining and the Eagles clung to that edge for dear life to pick up a 56-53 win over La Lumiere and capture third-place Saturday at the 53rd ACIT at Frostburg State University.
Jenkins, the player of the year in the Washington Capital Athletic Conference, used his soft touch to give the Eagles a 52-51 lead with just under a minute-and-a-half to play. After a steal and a bucket from Bryant Crawford that gave Gonzaga a 54-51 lead, Tavon Blackmon made two insurance shots at the foul line to seal the three-point win. The Lakers had a chance to inbound the ball with 1.7 seconds left, but Jordan Abdur-Ra’oof blocked the pass and the clock expired before anyone could gain control.
The win means Gonzaga, the No. 2 team in The Washington Post, finishes the season with 26 wins and five losses. The Lakers entered the tournament ranked eighth in the USA Today Super 25, but lost their last two games to fall to 26-5. There was a total differential of nine points during La Lumiere’s three games over the weekend.
Gonzaga was in charge for most of the first quarter before La Lumiere came back to tie the score at 20 before the buzzer sounded. The Eagles led by as many as five, 16-11, after a basket and a foul shot by Jenkins. The 6-foot-6 senior scored eight points in the first quarter before scoring only two over the second and third quarters. He finished with five more in the fourth to lead the team with 15.
“Kris has been one of the guys we count on over the last few years,” said Eagles head coach Steve Turner. “Even when he doesn’t have the hottest of hands, he’s someone we still work into the offense because he’s always come through for us.”
Jenkins has also been superb at the foul line during the weekend, making all 13 of his attempts at the line.
The second quarter consisted of two runs and a lot of down time as the teams combined to score 16 points. The Lakers started by scoring the first nine points of the quarter to lead 29-20 with 5:27 before halftime. Detrick Mostella, who led La Lumiere with 12 points, had four during that stretch, but the Lakers would go cold immediately after taking the nine-point lead and would not score again until 35 seconds remained. During that time, Gonzaga scored five points to cut the lead to 31-25 at intermission.
The Lakers seemed to take complete charge in the early going of the third and took a 35-27 lead when Mostella completed a half-court alley oop, but the Eagles worked their way back to 40-38 after a pair of free throws by Jenkins with 2:24 left in the third. Ahead 45-41 after three, La Lumiere took a 47-41 advantage after Marin Maric put in a layup.
Maric and Johnathon Wilkins, listed at 6-10 and 6-11, respectively, helped the Lakers dominate the boards. Wilkins finished with a game-high 12 rebounds and Maric added eight, as La Lumiere out-rebounded Gonzaga 32-17. Maric also finished with 11 points.
Things began to unravel for the Lakers following Maric’s layup, though, as Kevin Beins scored two straight times down the floor, and a technical foul against the Lakers allowed Jenkins to tie it at 47 with a pair of free throws.
“That was the turning point for us,” said Turner. “We had wasted a couple of opportunities to get even, but they weren’t taking advantage of them. When they gave us that opportunity, we had to take it or we may not have got another one.”
Maric hit two free throws and Wilkins hit two more to get the Lakers a 51-47 lead, but Justin Blackmon, who finished with 10 points, closed the gap to 51-49 before Jenkins’ three gave the Eagles the lead for good.
Chris Appel is a sportswriter for the Cumberland Times-News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.