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Franklin & Marshall holds on to first

Devon Lesniak © 2011 David Sinclair/McDaniel College
Devon Lesniak © 2011 David Sinclair/McDaniel College

Huge second half propels Diplomats past McDaniel in battle for top spot

LANCASTER, Pa. – Brandon Beckford netted a career-high 26 points to pace Franklin & Marshall to a 71-40 victory over McDaniel in Centennial Conference (CC) men's basketball action on Saturday.

In the battle for first place in the conference, the Diplomats (13-4, 8-2 CC) used a second half in which they outscored the Green Terror (9-8, 6-4 CC) by a 42-17 margin to exact revenge for a loss in Westminster 11 days earlier.

With the victory, Franklin & Marshall maintains a one-game lead on Gettysburg, which defeated Haverford. The Green Terror, Fords and Dickinson – a winner over Johns Hopkins on Saturday – are deadlocked in third place, two games behind.

Devon Lesniak (Westminster, Md./Winters Mill) recorded 15 points to pace McDaniel, which had its four-game winning streak snapped with the loss.

The Diplomats jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first 2:33 of the game before four points from Lesniak keyed a 6-2 counter that knotted the game at 6-all with 14:23 to play in the first half.

Christopher Cowles (West Chester, Pa./Bayard Rustin), who hit the tying free throws, added a 20-foot jumper in the corner to give the Green Terror its only lead, 8-6.

Max Brewer responded with a 3-pointer that gave the hosts the lead for good with 13:10 to play in the first half. Steve Tolliver added a triple of his own and Jon Salandra converted a free throw after a dunk to account for a 9-0 run that put Franklin & Marshall on top 15-8 with 11:26 showing.

A Cullen Murray-Kemp (Trappe, Md./Easton) junper made it a 19-17 game but the Diplomats tallied 10 of the game's next 13 points to stretch the first-half lead to as many as nine before Lesniak hit a triple to trim the deficit to 29-23 at the break.

Clinging to a 32-27 lead after a pair of Lesniak free throws with 16:05 on the clock, Beckford hit a trey to spark a 15-0 run over the game's next 3:03.

A Louis Sarris-Grau (Huntingdon Valley, Pa./Lower Moreland) layup with 11:21 to play momentarily halted the run but Hayk Gyokchyan put back a Salandra miss to return the lead to 20.

Leading 53-33 after a Murray-Kemp layup, Mike Baker converted from short range with 9:14 showing to ignite an 11-0 burst for a 33-point advantage with 5:01 to play en route to the largest margin of victory in the series since the Diplomats were victorious 85-54 on Nov. 23, 2004.

McDaniel returns to action at home against Swarthmore on Wednesday. Game time is 7 p.m.