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Freshman guard Sam Brown of Penn men's basketball during the Red & Blue Scrimmage on Oct. 21. Credit: Chaowu Li

A fairytale ending was crushed in Princess Anne, Md. on Saturday. Despite impeccable shooting from freshman guard Sam Brown late in his debut, it was not enough to secure a Quaker victory.

On Saturday afternoon, Penn men's basketball (3-2) fell to (2-2) Maryland-Eastern Shore 83-80 in a matchup that was neck-in-neck till the final whistle. 

Notably, sophomore guard Cam Thrower did not play in the game. With the absence of Thrower, junior guard George Smith stepped into the starting lineup. 

The Quakers were plagued by turnovers throughout the first half, where the Hawks scored 15 points off the Quaker’s 12 turnovers. Forcing these was a team effort by UMES as five players recorded steals in the first half. 

“We did a poor job for sure,” coach Steve Donahue said on the amount of turnovers. “We just didn’t handle their pressure very well.” 

Additionally, the Quakers were cold from the three-point line in the first half, shooting 1-9 from three. It seemed these woes were contagious as the Hawks only shot 20% from deep. 

The Quakers lone three-point bucket came from the hands of senior guard Clark Slajchert, who was also the first half’s leading scorer, recording 14 points. The Hawks were unable to find an answer for Slajchert. The guard effortlessly carved towards the bucket, knocking down mid-range jump shots and making several trips to the free-throw line. 

Going into the half, a thunderous dunk by UMES’s Damani Claxton was an exclamation point on an impressive first half by the Hawks. As their home court erupted, UMES took a 32-31 lead into halftime.  

The second half lived up to the expectations set by the closely contested first. Slajchert continued where he left off in the first 20 minutes, hitting two quick three-pointers to start off the half. Slajchert was a man amongst boys, taking over from the jump and never looking back. 

In his debut, Brown looked as if he had been playing Division I basketball his entire life. Recording 27 minutes, it was evident Donahue felt confident going to Brown with the absence of Thrower. Brown provided a much-needed spark off the bench, scoring 11 points and going 5-5 from the free throw line in the second half. 

“I feel like [Brown] came in, really gave us a lift, handled the ball, and obviously made shots,” Donahue said. “I thought he guarded well too, coming back from that ankle injury. I thought he really played well.”

However, this combination of Slajchert and Brown did not allow the Quakers to run away with the lead in the second half. The Quakers allowed the Hawks to stick around until the final seconds of regulation due to their inability to limit turnovers. 

With 7.8 seconds left in the game, the Hawks found themselves down three points. Inbounding the ball to Elijah Wilson, the junior guard performed a crossover into hitting contested stepback three, forcing overtime. The Hawks' momentum continued into overtime, quickly gaining a lead on the Quakers through the first four minutes. With 23 seconds left in overtime, the Quakers were down six following a pair of UMES free throws. 

The Quakers quickly scored back with a deep three-pointer from Brown. Now leading by three points, the Hawks looked to inbound the ball and seal the game, but Penn’s defense suffocated the Hawks, leading to a steal. The ball found itself back in the hot hands of Brown, who promptly made another three, tying the game. In his debut, the freshman had made the necessary shots to get his team back into the game, scoring six points in the span of seven seconds. 

The Hawks, however, had the last laugh. With three seconds left on the clock, Wilson came up clutch yet again. After hitting a three to send the game into overtime, Wilson won the game off a trailing three-pointer. Cheers erupted after the swish of the shot echoed throughout the stadium. After a missed half-court prayer by Slajchert, the game was over. 

In his message to his team following the defeat, Donahue attributed the loss to a lack of preparation: ”You got to be ready for a fight every game. Obviously, we didn’t do enough in prep. You got to compete better.”