MOUNT VERNON — It came down to the wire in Ariel Arena between Mount Vernon Nazarene University men’s basketball and Goshen on Tuesday, and it was the Cougars who made the key plays down the stretch to prevail, 88-82.
In a fast paced, back-and-forth battle in the opening half. MVNU (12-7, 4-3 CL) established a lead that grew as large as six points, 23-17, following consecutive threes from Jacob Paul, but the Maple Leafs responded with a 6-0 run of their own to tie the game.
The Maple Leafs continued their momentum in the early moments of the second half to build its largest lead of the game, 54-47, following back-to-back triples from Billy Geschke and Colton Noel with 16:52 remaining.
The Cougars, however, went on a run of their own to regain the lead, 56-54. Brett Vipperman sunk one of his three long balls to make it 56-54 a little over two minutes later.
Vipperman carried the Cougars for a significant stretch, scoring 13 of the team’s 15 points, capped off by another three-ball to make it 65-59 with 10:58 left.
Goshen tied it up at 78 with 3:34 left, but the Cougars went on a 5-0 run, started by two converted free throws from Vipperman and a three in the right corner from Jevon Knox.
Holding an 85-82 advantage moments later, the Cougars made two consecutive stops to force Goshen into the fouling game. Paul made it a two-possession score at 86-82 by splitting a pair of free throws, but MVNU once again got a stop and Knox hit two more to ice the game.
MVNU had four players in double-figures, spearheaded by Vipperman, who scored 19 of his team-high 22 points over the final 20 minutes. The junior forward missed just one shot from the floor (7 of 8) and also corralled eight rebounds. Paul finished with 16 points, four rebounds and three assists, Knox had 15 points and six boards and Jeremiah Roberts chipped in with 12 points and six rebounds.
MVNU moved into a tie for fourth place in the Crossroads League standings with No. 16 Spring Arbor. The Cougars’ next challenge will come on Saturday at No. 14 Bethel (16-3, 5-2 CL), and the tip-off is set for 3 p.m.