Buffalo, NY – The D'Youville men's basketball team fell short in their comeback attempt on Wednesday evening as the Hilbert Hawks defeated the Spartans at home by the final score of 93-83.
Hilbert jumped out to a 9-2 lead with just over 2 minutes elapsed on the game clock. Freshmen Jeremy VanDuluitgaarden (Oneida, NY/Vernon-Verona-Sherrill) and Jake Socha (Tonawanda, NY/Niagara Catholic) brought the Spartans to back within 2 with a combined 7 points between the two. The Hawks would answer with 6 consecutive points and extend their lead to 19-11.
Trailing 29-24, D'Youville would go on to hit 3 straight three-pointers, including two from Steve Kunelius (Oswego, NY/Oswego), and trail 31-30 with 6:15 remaining in the half. Hilbert would again pull away and take an 8 point lead, and then a 14 point lead with 1:13 left before halftime. D'Youville would chip away at the Hawk lead slightly and go into the half trailing 52-39.
Marcus Clarke (Olean, NY/Archbishop Walsh Academy) and Will VanAuken (Caledonia, NY/Caledonia-Mumford) played a large role in getting the Spartans back into the game in the second half. The two combined for 9 points in the first 4:27 of play and D'Youville would trail by 8. VanDuluitgaarden then hit a three followed by a Jon Gemerek (Cheektowaga, NY/Depew) and the deficit became 4.
VanAuken seized his opportunity, converting a three-point play, and the Spartans were within one with 13:23 left in the game and D'Youville trailing 62-61. Less than 3 minutes later, Hilbert would regain some cushion, extending their lead to 8.
Hilbert attempted to pull away every few possessions, but the Spartans remained determined to keep the game close. With 9:01 to go in the game, Zach Black (Portville, NY/Portville) made it a three-point game. After the Hawks regained a larger lead, Bayani Salinas (Antioch, CA/Antioch) drilled a three with 3:48 remaining and the deficit was back down to 4.
Clarke put the team within one point of tying the game at 84-83 with 1:09 to go, but Hilbert converted 7 of 8 free throws down the stretch and put the game out of reach, eventually defeating the Spartans by the final score of 93-83.
"It was a frustrating ending to a great comeback," said Head Coach Earl Schunk. "We fought hard to come back from 15 down. Our press was effective and we forced 11 second half turnovers and gave ourselves a chance to win."
Freshman Jake Socha led the team in scoring coming off the bench. His 12 points was followed by 11 from senior Jon Gemerek and then 10 points came from Steve Kunelius. Marcus Clarke had 9 points to go with his team high 4 assists. Gemerek, Jeremy VanDuluitgaarden and Juan Miguel Rosales (Guatemala City, Guatemala/Village School) all tied with 5 rebounds.
All 5 of the team's starters had at least 4 points, 1 rebound and 1 assist.
Coach Schunk saw his team had the opportunities to turn the game in their favor late, but they just couldn't capitalize on them.
"We had to step up and make shots at those crucial times; we had 4 chances to tie it or go ahead in the final 2 minutes," said Schunk. "I am proud of their effort though, we have to make it consistent for 40 minutes if we want against good teams."
D'Youville will get another opportunity to win against a good team on Saturday as the Spartans host the La Roche Redhawks at 1pm on January 30th in the College Center Gym.