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East Stroudsburg Athletics | March 15, 2014

East Stroudsburg holds off Livingstone 99-98 in first-round action

EAST STROUDSBURG, Pa. -- Junior guard Whis Grant scored 29 points to lead five double-figure scorers and No. 2 East Stroudsburg secured the second NCAA postseason win in program history with a 99-98 victory against Livingstone in the first round of the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional on Saturday night at Koehler Fieldhouse.

ESU (29-1), the Atlantic Region's No. 1 seed and regional host for the first time in program history, advances to face the winner of tonight's fourth first-round game between No. 4-seed Charleston and No. 5 Gannon.

Mark Thomas scored 36 points and Jody Hill, Jr. had 29 for Livingstone (21-8), the CIAA tournament champion, which scored the final nine points after ESU led 99-89 with 2:48 left, but the Warriors held on.

Thomas missed a jumper, pressured by Grant, with three seconds left and senior forward Zechariah Runkle grabbed the last of his career-high 15 rebounds to secure the victory.

Earlier in the day, No. 3-seed IUP posted a 75-68 win against West Chester, and No. 2-seed West Liberty, the three-time regional champion, won 88-72 against Glenville State.

The victory is ESU's first NCAA postseason win since 1990 and comes by the same score. The Warriors outlasted Slippery Rock, 99-98 (OT), in an East Region semifinal game at Mercyhurst in Erie, Pa.

The entire contest was played at a frenetic pace and included just 24 turnovers – 10 by Livingstone and 14 by ESU – just the second time the Warriors have committed more turnovers than their opponents this season. ESU leads DII in turnover margin (+7.7) entering the NCAA tournament.

ESU led by as many as 13 points (67-54) in the second half before Livingstone climbed back to tie the game at 83-all with 7:26 remaining.

The Warriors stretched their lead back to 10 (99-89) with 2:48 left, including a 6-0 surge sparked by a three-point play by Tobin, but Livingstone had a final push.

Thomas hit a three-pointer with 2:08 left, knocked down three free throws at the 1:20 mark to make it 99-95, and drilled another three after an ESU turnover to bring the Blue Bears within 99-98 with 47 seconds left.

A layup by Grant was waved off on an offensive goaltend with 15 seconds left, and after a Livingstone timeout, Thomas pulled up for a jumper from the wing that came up short.

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