While most of Eastern University’s community was preparing for the Christmas holiday, the men’s basketball team was competing in the Third Annual HoopMIA D3 Holiday Shootout in Miami, Fla. HoopMIA LLC is a basketball event management and marketing organization that arranges events for young student athletes in South Florida. The non-league Holiday Shootout tournament took place Dec. 18-20, at the Health & Sports Center on the Campus of Barry University. Twelve men’s teams and six women’s teams competed from different D3 universities and colleges, including Cabrini University, Moravian College, and Gettysburg College.
The Eastern Eagles went head to head with Moravian College on Dec. 19, at six p.m. The team reportedly struggled in the beginning of the game, as the Moravian Greyhounds scored 12 three-pointers in the first-half. This onslaught led to a score of 52-44 at the break, however the Eagles were not going to go down without a fight. In the second half, the Eagles rallied and started closing the score gap by putting together an 11-0 run.
As the close match continued, senior Antonio Chapman scored 25 points, junior Darius Washington scored 14 points, sophomore Gabe Perez scored 12 points, sophomore Clifton Adams scored 10 points, and junior Victor Peña also scored 10 points. The Eagles lost to the Greyhounds with a final score of 100-96. According to GoEasternEagles, Head Coach Eric McNelley said that it was “a difficult team for us to play,” especially because senior Anthony Concepcion was injured and thus unable to play. “That being said,” McNelley continued, “We got better today. Chapman did a good job as the lead guard. He had a couple bad possessions and unnecessary turnovers, but he will only get better with more reps. We never gave up. I am happy we competed for 40 minutes.”
The Eagles did not have time to rest, as the next day they were competing against the Penn State University-Behrend Lions. The Eastern University team seemed unable to work together to break through the Lions’ solid defense. The PSU-Behrend basketball players made eight three-pointers in the first half of the game, with the overall score being 40-27 at halftime. Once again, the Eagles seemed able to regain some of their vivacity in the second half, defending the three-point line, which resulted in a closer 52-46 score. Peña led the team, scoring 14 points in the intense game. The Eagles seemed to just not be able to make up for their weaker first half, and the game’s final score was 71-56.
According to GoEasternEagles, Coach McNelley said that the PSU-Behrend team “would have been a tough team to play with a week to prepare…They are very well-coached, and they compete on every possession. We were able to [do] a better job getting into the post in the second half, but they [PSU] were able to keep the game at their pace.”
Although the HoopMIA Holiday Shootout did not go as the Eagles may have hoped, it was certainly not a wasted opportunity. Junior Austin Duncan said, “the tournament is always fun.” Especially because Eastern has a lot of basketball players and two coaches who herald from Miami. “It’s a great way for Eastern to play and perform in front of their family and friends,” Austin said. He acknowledged that the team did not perform as well as they had hoped, “basketball-wise this past trip wasn’t the best, because we lost the two games…but I think a lot of guys grew closer and we all learned from the losses…As a whole, I felt like we learned from the two games we played, and we applied it when we came back from break.”
Sources: Hoopmia.com, goeasterneagles.com.