Fresh off of Thanksgiving break, the Emmaus Eagles returned to their home court for the first time since the alumni game. Their opponent would be Crossroads College who found themselves in a similar situation as the Eagles, which was playing heavy competition leading into the night's game. Both teams were excited and ready to play against similar talent. Right from the tip, the game was played pretty evenly. Emmaus took a slim lead in the early minutes but Crossroads stuck around and would take the lead with about seven minutes left in the half. With captain Skyler Sandry out due to injury for the rest of the semester, others needed to step up in his absence and it started off with Matthew Tomlinson and Cody Nicely. Both contributed in a positive way in the first half. Nearing the final minutes of the half, Crossroads capitalized on some sloppy errors by Emmaus and slow rotations on the defensive end. Down eight points as the clock wound down, Cody Nicely threw up a prayer at the buzzer from deep behind the 3 point line and saw it answered with a swish. The Eagles would head into the half down five.
Having played a 1-3-1 defense most of the first half, the coaching staff decided to switch to man to try and throw Crossroads off their rhythm. They expressed to the guys that they were proud of how they fought in the first half but that they would have to dig even deeper in the second to try and pull out a win.
As the second half started, the Eagles looked lost and were not executing their defense. Several easy looks led to quick baskets for Crossroads and Coach Wilkerson was forced to call a timeout. During the timeout, it was stressed that the effort and communication was not present and the team needed to pick it up and show that they wanted to win a basketball game. When play resumed, it seemed that the guys on the court did not heed the words that were told to them. Desperate for a change, Coach Wilkerson subbed all five guys out with mostly reserve players. "My hope was that the starters would see that just being talented is not enough," Coach Wilkerson explained. "You have to attempt to do everything right down the court and treat every possession like it is your last one."
The lineup who went in was Steven Delain, Stefon Spivey, Mitchell Patzka, Jared Mast, and Nathan Davidson. The first couple of possessions were rocky with Nathan Davidson picking up a quick foul. This required him having to come out and Caleb Ruter took his place. All of the sudden, the fire Coach Wilkerson was looking for was lit. Active hands and continuous effort was shown as the team on the court managed to get steals, limit Crossroads to one shot, and get solid possessions on the offensive end. Both Patzka and Spivey hit a three pointer and Delain found his way in the lane for a nice floater. As Coach Wilkerson started slowly rotating the starters back in, the momentum continued as Cody Nicely became untouchable and found himself with several and-1 opportunities after blowing past his man and getting the basket and the foul. He would finish with 16 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists.
Ultimately, it was too late for the Eagles as Crossroads made some timely baskets and Sandry's absence really showed in the second half. The Eagles would fall 81-62 in a game that was closer than the score indicated.
"I give Crossroads a lot of credit. They are a good team and much improved from last year," said Coach Wilkerson. "I was proud of many of our guys tonight who really got the most of their minutes. We are still looking for the 40 minute effort that is needed to win a basketball game. Hopefully, tomorrow we will find that and end this losing streak."
Emmaus heads to Ankeny on Tuesday, December 1, to face off against reigning conference champions Faith Baptist. The ladies play at 4:30 with the men following at 6:30.