PRINCESS ANNE, Md. — Halloween may have been two days ago, but the Maryland Eastern Shore Hawks still got a scare on Thursday night.
In their lone exhibition game before the 2017-18 season, the Hawks welcomed the Christopher Newport University Captains, who play in the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) at the Division III level, to Hytche Arena on Thursday night.
The Captains are one of the top teams in Division III, as they have amassed a winning percentage of .791 over the past seven seasons. Over the last two seasons, the Captains put together a record of 57-5, and have won back-to-back CAC titles.
On Thursday, the Hawks were in tough against their Division III opponents, and their exhibition game went right down to the wire. A pair of free throws down the stretch from Ahmad Frost put the Hawks ahead for good, at 59-58.
They would go on to escape with a 61-58 victory, as the Captains missed a game-tying three ball at the buzzer.
Frost finished the night with 12 points to pace the Hawks.
Both teams combined for 21 turnovers in a sloppy first half on both ends. The Captains took a slim two-point lead into the break, at 33-31. The Hawks had a chance to tie the game before the half was out, but one too many passes led to the buzzer sounding before they could get a shot off.
To open the second half, the visitors rattled off a 10-0 run, stretching their lead to 43-31 with more than 17 minutes to play in the game.
Credit the Hawks for continuing to fight after coming out of the gates slow in the second half. A three ball from Frost with 8:32 to play cut the deficit down to three points, at 50-47. Shortly thereafter, Tyler Jones tied the game up at 52-all with a pair of free throws of his own.
All-American guard Marcus Carter tied things up at 56-all with a layup with under two minutes to play. He hit a pair of free throws a minute later to give the visitors a 58-57 lead with under a minute to play.
Cue some late-game heroics from Frost.
Frost hit a pair of free throws with just 42 ticks left on the clock to give the home side a 59-58 lead. On the defensive end, freshman guard Sean Hoggs came up with a timely steal. Logan McIntosh found himself at the free throw line, but missed both attempts.
Forward LeAndre Thomas dove for a loose ball, and it ended up back in the hands of Frost, who was fouled once more. Just like before, he hit both attempts, this time to give the Hawks a 61-58 lead. A last-second three point attempt from Jason Aigner fell short, and the Hawks escaped the Captains with a three-point win.
Jones, McIntosh, and Bacote all finished with 10 points apiece in the win, while Thomas chipped in with eight points and eight rebounds.
For the visitors, Carter finished with a game-high 17 points, while teammate Spencer Martin added 16 points in a losing effort.
It’s worth noting that the Hawks were without the services of three key players on Thursday. Both Dontae Caldwell and Isaac Taylor are expected to miss the 2017-18 season due to injuries, and Ryan Andino will miss ‘a handful of games’ at the start of the season due to an injury.
With their exhibition tilt behind them, the Hawks now turn their attention to the 2017-18 regular season opener. Eastern Shore welcomes the University of Valley Forge to town on November 10th, with tip-off scheduled for 8pm EST.
The two teams last met a season ago, with the Hawks holding down home court by way of a 90-65 victory on January 2nd.
– T. Bennett