January 21, 2012

Late Comeback Falls Short; University of the District of Columbia Men’s Basketball Defeated by C.W. Post in ECC Barnburner

WASHINGTON, DC  –  A furious late rally by the University of the District of Columbia men's basketball team fell short as the Firebirds fell, 92-85 in an East Coast Conference barnburner versus C.W. Post on Saturday afternoon at UDC Gym.

The loss ends the Firebirds' East Region best 14-game home winning streak that dated back to Jan. 5, 2011, and moves their record to 14-3 overall and 5-2 in league play. C.W. Post, meanwhile, improved to 13-4 overall and a perfect 7-0 in the ECC.

"This was a very hard-fought game," head coach Jeff Ruland said. "We knew we had to do a good job on the backboard, and we just didn't do it. We gave up 21 second-chance points, and you're just not going to win like that. The good news is, we still have nine games left, and we'll see this team again before the season is over."

District of Columbia, already without its 6-foot-11 senior center Diyaaldin Kelley, was plagued by foul trouble all afternoon as three of its major inside players, Ziad Ashmawy (Cairo, Egypt – American City College),Dyrek Jones (Brooklyn, NY – Bedford Academy) and Brandon Ennis (Ontario, Canada) all fouled out of the game.

Senior guards Nigel Munson (Washington, DC – DeMatha HS) and Brandon Herbert (Baltimore, MD – McDonough HS) carried the scoring load as they combined for 56 points for the day. Munson, who needed 29 points to reach 1,000 for his career, eclipsed the mark as he shot 15-of-25 from the field and 5-of-6 from the free-throw line to score a season and game-high 35 points. Herbert pitched in with 21 points.

C.W. Post was led by the leading scorer in the conference, Stefan Bonneau, who registered 32 points on 11-of-21 shooting from the field (5-of-10 from long-range) and 5-of-5 from the free-throw line. Forwards Vaughn Allen (23 points, 13 rebounds) and Tyuan Williams (10 points, 17 rebounds) each had double-doubles and helped the Pioneers win the rebounding battle, 53-43. The two combined for 11 of the team's 18 offensive rebounds.

The Firebirds owned a slightly better field goal shooting percentage (42%-41%) but the Pioneers made out like bandits at the free-throw line, making 30-of-40 attempts compared to UDC's 15-of-19. The Firebirds did, however, force 17 Post turnovers while only committing seven of their own.

The first half featured six ties and six lead changes, as the two East Coast Conference heavyweights were never separated by more than six points the entire half. Two of the nation's best guards, Bonneau and Munson both showed off for a packed house at UDC Gym, scoring 20 and 19, respectively in the first stanza. The Firebirds out-shot the Pioneers 47-percent to 36-percent, but were outrebounded 28-13 and surrendered 12 second-chance points. C.W. Post led, 42-40 at halftime.

Jones got UDC off to a good start in the second half as he converted a layup 19 seconds into the action to send the game to its seventh tie at 42-all. The Pioneers came right back down and scored via a layup by Allen, which put them in front for good, 44-42 at the 19:33 mark. Allen's layup sparked a 13-5 Post run which gave the Pioneers a 55-47 advantage. The visitors would extend their lead to 10 (61-51) after a layup by Terry Coleman at the 12:40 mark, but UDC was not going away quietly.

Trailing by the largest margin held by either team all afternoon, 12, with 3:38 left to play in regulation, the Firebirds mounted one last rally to try and extend their home winning streak and send C.W. Post to its first conference defeat of the season. Munson got the ball rolling by converting an and-one play on a running jumper. A layup by Herbert followed, then a steal by Herbert and a fast-break layup by Ennis made it a five-point game with 3:10 to go. After a Coleman jumper brought the Pioneer lead back to seven, UDC scored six of the next seven points, and pulled within two (83-81) on a pair of Ennis free-throws at the 1:15 mark. But on the ensuing Post possession, Allen grabbed an offensive rebound off a Coleman miss, and got a putback layup to go as he was fouled. He converted the free-throw for the traditional three-point play, and Post's lead was back to five. Twice more the Firebirds raced down the floor and made layups to make it a three-point game, but the Pioneers shot 6-of-6 at the stripe in the final 18 seconds, and went on to win, 92-85.

Click Here to watch highlight footage of the Firebirds in action.

UDC will look to bounce back as they visit ECC for Molloy on Wednesday, January 25th at 8:00 p.m.