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WildCats Come Up Short against Hornets 73-70

Brian Smith shooting the ball
Brian Smith scored 17 points for the WildCats on 6-of-9 shooting. He was 5-of-7 from beyond the three-point arc.

LYNCHBURG, Va.- It was a packed house at the RAD Center on Wednesday night as the Randolph men's basketball team played host to city rival Lynchburg College. The game came down to the final seconds with the Hornets walking away with a 73-70 victory.

The contest was one sided in favor of Lynchburg in the first half. The Hornets got out to an 8-0 lead before the 'Cats scored on a three-point basket from Brian Smith (Dumfries, Va./C.D. Hylton) at 16:29. LC then continued to build on its lead as it went on a 13-2 run to go up 23-5. Randolph was held without a field goal for 9:32 of game time.

Despite the scoreless stretch, the WildCats clawed their way back in. Trailing 25-12 with just under seven minutes remaining in the half, Randolph mounted a 10-2 run to get the score to 27-20 with 5:13 remaining. After the Hornets netted a pair of free throws, Smith drained another three and Nick Goble (Charlotte, N.C./Myers Park) followed with a layup to make it 29-25. Lynchburg was able to go ahead by seven, 32-25, with 28 ticks left but two free throws by Elijah Ford (Chantilly, Va./Chantilly) cut it 32-27 where the score stood at the break.

Ford started the second half with a layup to put the score at 32-29. Lynchburg's lead stood at 39-35 and it was able to build back up to a double-digit advantage, 46-35, at 14:57. Randolph showed its resolve as Smith countered with a trey and Ryan Fields (Edgewood, Md./Loyola Blakefield) added a layup and it was a two-possession contest, 46-40, at 13:41.

A Sammy Hooper (Richmond, Va./Midlothian) three-pointer made it 46-43. The teams exchanged baskets as Randolph could not shave its deficit to less than three points. The WildCats finally did as hot-handed Smith drilled yet another three and it was 56-54 Lynchburg with 8:28 to play. A Fields' three got the WildCats to within one point of tying at 6:38. After a layup by LC's Chance Greene made it 60-57, Fields answered again with another three-point to knot the score at 60-all at 5:51. The 'Cats then took their first lead of the night as Reid Jacoby (Richmond, Va./Benedictine) hit a jump shot with 5:10 to play to lift Randolph to a 62-60 advantage.

Lynchburg got back in front by two but Hooper was fouled while attempting a three and went to the charity stripe. He made all three of his attempts to put Randolph up 65-64 with 3:26 showing on the clock. The teams exchanged leads four times in the next 3:16 with Jacoby hitting a three with just 10 seconds left to give Randolph a 70-69 lead.

A foul on Fields put Lynchburg's Austin Wrighten on the line and he made both free throws to give the Hornets a 71-70 lead with five seconds left. Randolph looked to inbound the ball to pull off a potential game-winning shot but Hooper turned the ball over and Devante Young would be fouled by Smith. Young made both attempts and the WildCats could not get in position to tie the game as the horn sounded.

"It didn't end the way we wanted it to but it really speaks to who our guys are," said head coach Pete Hamilton after the game. Hamilton said he was proud of how his team battled throughout.

Despite being outshot overall, the WildCats were nearly even with the Hornets in the second half with Randolph hitting on almost 52% of its attempts. The 'Cats dominated from the beyond the three-point arc hitting 10-of-24 (41.7%) compared to the Hornets 2-of-11 (18.2%). Randolph went to the foul line 24 times on the evening which was the second-most all season and its 18 conversions represented a season-high.

Lynchburg controlled the boards 41-37. Part of Randolph's comeback was the 18 points it scored off 15 LC turnovers.

Fields finished with 18 points to lead the WildCats. He grabbed six rebounds, dished out five assists, and picked up two steals. Smith put up 17 points and shot 6-of-9 from the floor and 5-of-7 in three-point field goals that tied a season-best. Ford added eight points and a team-leading 10 rebounds. Goble chipped in seven points and eight boards.

Randolph hosts Bridgewater next on Saturday afternoon. Game time from the RAD will be at 2:00 p.m.