Crown edges Finlandia men in final moments for 71-69 victory

HANCOCK Finlandia University trailed just once in Saturday’s men’s basketball game versus Crown College.

Unfortunately for the Lions, that lead change came with just 2.3 seconds remaining and resulted in a 71-69 defeat at Paavo Nurmi Gym.

A layup from Garrett Bigej of the Storm was the decisive play in a game in which FU led all the way and appeared to be headed for a certain win.

“It’s a tough way to lose a game,” Lions coach Mike O’Donnell commented. “We did a lot of good things, but they (Crown) hung in there and made clutch plays when they had to.”

Bigej scored his team’s final eight points to erase a 69-63 FU lead with just 55 seconds left to play. That included a pair of very long 3-point baskets.

“You have to give the kid (Bigej) credit.” O’Donnell said. “He came up and hit those shots. They kept chipping and chipping away at us.”

FU grabbed the early lead and went up 41-31 at halftime. Brandon Robinson laced 16 points, and Marcus Geralds netted 12 more in the first 20 minutes.

Crown couldn’t dent that double figure lead in the second half until the closing minutes.

“I thought our offense went a little stagnant in the second half,” O’Donnell noted. “We’re still looking for that third scorer to go along with Brandon Robinson and Marcus (Geralds).”

Robinson led the 1-3 Lions with 24 points, two assists and three steals in a solid showing. Geralds added 17 points and a game-best 13 rebounds.

Terrance Fuller put in 12 points, while Austin Carlson notched eight points, seven rebounds and three blocks.

The 1-4 victors were paced by Bigej’s 15 points. Austin VanderHeyDen netted 14 and Josh Volness tossed in 13 for the Storm.

Finlandia will travel to St. Scholastica College on Friday.

“We’ll keep working at it,” O’Donnell said. “I don’t think we’re that far from being a good ballclub.”

CROWN COLLEGE — Thomas 4, Volness 13, Brown 8, Jusczak 10, VanderHeyDen 14, Bigej 15, Whitcomb 8. FG: 26-61; FT: 8-13; Rebounds: 34 ( Brown 6); Fouls: 16, Fouled out: None; 3-point FG: Bigej 3, Jusczak 2, Brown 1, VanDerHeyDen 1.

FINLANDIA — Robinson 24, Cercone 2, Geralds 17, Carlson 8, Fuller 12, Lane 3, Beamon 1. FG: 23-49; FT: 21-28; Rebounds: 29 (Geralds 13); Fouls: 14; Fouled out: None; 3-point FG: Robinson 1, Lane 1.

Halftime score: FU 41, Crown 31.