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Malone's hot shooting is just enough to hold off Point Park rally

Feb. 13, 2010

WEST MIFFLIN, Pa. – The Malone University men’s basketball team made 11 of 13 treys the first half, and the Pioneers ended up needing every one of them.

BOX SCORE AND PLAY BY PLAY  

Heatherington vs. Cedarville 2

Malone (13-14, 9-6 AMC) poured in 15 3-pointers in all, and although it had its 17-point, second-half lead cut down to two points with 2:00 left, the Pioneers escaped with a 98-95 victory at Point Park in an American Mideast Conference game Saturday afternoon at CCAC-South Gymnasium.

Point Park (9-14, 5-9 AMC) shot 53 percent and scored 46 points the first half but still found itself down by 14, 60-46, at the break. That’s because Malone shot an unreal 85 percent (11 of 13) from beyond the arc the first 20 minutes.

Malone ended up making 15 of 26 treys (58 percent) on the day. Eric Coblentz, who had 20 points and four 3-pointers, provided the winning points when his long-range jumper gave Malone a 98-93 lead with 1:46 to go.

Point Park trailed by 17 on three occasions in the second half, including at 83-66 with 10:31 remaining. The Pioneers made a furious comeback that was led by freshman point guard T.J. Heatherington (McKeesport/Serra Catholic) and reserve guard Franco Sebastiani (Greensburg/Greensburg Central Catholic).

Heatherington (pictured above) finished with 25 points, five assists and four steals, and his steal and transition layup cut the Malone lead to 95-93 with 2:02 left.

After Coblentz’s clutch 3-pointer, Sebastiani grabbed a steal and made a layup on the break to make it 98-95 with 51 seconds remaining. Sebastiani tallied 18 points, four steals and four rebounds. The junior guard had 14 the second half as part of the rally.

An offensive foul turnover on Malone’s next possession gave Point Park the ball with 21 seconds to go and trailing by three. The Pioneers called a timeout to set up a potential tying 3-pointer, but because of Malone’s tough perimeter defense, the best shot Point Park got was a leaning 3-point attempt by Heatherington as the clock hit two seconds.

Heatherington’s shot clanked off the rim as time expired, and Malone had escaped with a three-point win.

Malone’s hot shooting made up for 20 turnovers, 12 of which came the second half and aided Point Park’s comeback. Malone ended up shooting 59.7 percent (37 of 62) from the field while Point Park shot 50.7 percent (37 of 73).

Point Park was undone by its free-throw shooting. The Pioneers missed 14 foul shots and were 16 of 30 from the line for 53 percent.

After making 11 of 13 shots from downtown the first half, Malone was 4 of 13 the rest of the way.

Malone’s unbelievable shooting in the first half was led by guard Kyle Higgins, who had 23 of his 25 points the first 20 minutes. By halftime, Higgins was 8 of 9 from the field, which included a 7-for-8 performance from beyond the arc.

The only points Higgins scored the second half were on two free throws that extended his team’s lead to 95-91 with 3:05 to go.

Point Park’s Gerald Warrick (Penn Hills/Penn Hills), a 6-7 center, turned in yet another double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Warrick has eight double-doubles in his last 10 games.

Warrick’s tip-in at the 6:14 mark got the deficit under double digits for the first time at 89-81. The Pioneers trailed 93-83 with 5:18 remaining, but used an 8-0 run to get within 93-91 two minutes later. During the run, Malone made four turnovers in a row.

The late rally was made up of Heatherington’s transition layup, a trey by Joel Cashatt (Stockton, Calif./Jim Elliott Christian) and three free throws by Sebastiani.

Cashatt a junior guard, ended up with nine points on 3 of 5 shooting from long range.

Marcus Robinson (Pittsburgh/Allderdice) added 10 points, five rebounds and four steals. Robinson’s steal led to Sebastiani’s free throws, which cut it to 93-91 with 3:31 left.

Ebiowei Porbeni posted a double-double of 16 points and 11 rebounds for Malone. Mark Young gave the Pioneers four players in double figures with 13 points.

Two straight 3-pointers by Higgins helped Malone build a 10-point lead, 49-39, with 2:57 left in the first half. Before the half was through, Higgins poured in two more treys, and Jordan Lindesmith added one for good measure to establish the 14-point lead at the break.

At 5-9 in the AMC, Point Park is still alive in the postseason race, but their chances are slim at best. The Pioneers stand 2.5 games out of contention with two games to go. The good news is that Point Park has the two teams it is chasing -- Daemen (7-6 AMC) and Roberts Wesleyan (7-7) --  left on its schedule.

Point Park, which needs a lot of help to qualify for the playoffs, travels to Daemen Thursday (7:30 p.m.) and visits Roberts Wesleyan (4 p.m.) Saturday.