SELINSGROVE, Pa. – With a home playoff game on the line, the Susquehanna men’s basketball rose to the challenge, taking down Juniata 81-71 to clinch the No. 2 seed in the tournament. The Crusaders will remain at home on Wednesday to take on these same Eagles in a Landmark Conference semifinal matchup at 7 p.m.
With the win, the Crusaders (15-9, 9-5) remain a perfect 7-0 in home conference games and split the regular season series with Juniata (17-8, 9-5).
Susquehanna led by as many as 19 points and held off a late Juniata run that briefly cut the lead to single digits to clinch the home playoff contest.
Senior Spenser Spencer (Seattle, Wash./Lakeside) led all scorers with 27 points, nine of which came from three point range and 10 of which came at the charity stripe. With his 27 points, Spencer is now third all-time in SU scoring history with 1,528 career points.
Joining him in double figures were J.T. Wilson (Sparta, N.J./Pope John XXIII Regional) with 18 and Harley Sellinger (Mill Hall, Pa./Central Mountain) with 17. Freshman Tony Seldon (Bloomfield, Conn./Northwest Catholic) led the squad with nine boards.
One of the big differences in the game came in the paint, where SU held a 22-12 advantage over the Eagles.
The first half was all SU as the Crusaders opened with back-to-back buckets. After a brief 4-4 tie, Susquehanna went ahead 6-4 thanks to a Spencer layup and the team never looked back.
A Sellinger layup at 9:03 gave his squad its first double-digit lead of the night, 24-13. From there, the SU defense held Juniata to just three points over the next five minutes as the Crusaders built a 31-16 lead.
A Spencer trey at the buzzer marked the final points of the half and gave Susquehanna a 43-25 halftime advantage.
The second half picked up right where the first one left off, with SU remaining up by 18 (45-27) after just 45 seconds of play.
The Crusaders went on to take a game-high 19-point advantage (54-35) after a Wilson three-pointer with 13:15 remaining in the game.
Juniata would not go down without a fight, however, as they cut the lead to 10 (58-48) with eight minutes still to play. On the Eagles’ next possession, a Jeremy Hays jumper made it 58-50 ballgame and with 5:28 on the clock, teammate Dan Sekulski came through with a layup for a six-point game (61-55).
That prompted a Crusader timeout and following that break, SU quickly regained a 12-point lead (68-56) thanks to a Mike Perillo (Holmdel, N.J./Holmdel) layup at the 2:38 mark.
The Eagles cut the lead to less than 10 points on two Sekulski free throws at 1:06 for a 74-66 score. SU managed to hold off Juniata, though, thanks in part to seven made free throws over the final 60 seconds of play.
Prior to the start of the game, the SU Athletic Department honored the two senior members of the team in Matt Modrick (Leesport, Pa./Schuylkill Valley) and Spencer.
Home Cookin’ for SU Men