Forward Juan Jones made two free throws with 26 seconds left, a Hofstra shot was ruled to have come after the final buzzer and American hung on to win, 54-53, in an East Coast Conference game tonight.
The triumph gave the Eagles the ECC East Division championship at 7-2--they are 18-9 overall--and top seeding in the conference tournament starting Monday. American, which won its fifth in a row, received a first-round bye and will play Wednesday. Had Hofstra won, the Dutchmen would have been top seeded. Hofstra finished third, at 7-2 and 18-8. La Salle also was 7-2, but lost to American.
The Eagles were ahead by as many as 11 points in the second half after leading, 29-26, at halftime. Mark Nicken's jump shot gave them a 41-30 lead with 15:32 left and, although they then played tentatively, they still held a 50-45 lead with 3:21 to go.
With the score 52-45 and 3:07 left, Hofstra scored eight unanswered points for a 53-52 lead with 52 seconds remaining.
American brought the ball down court and took four shots. After the fourth missed, Jones rebounded and was fouled in the act of shooting. He made both free throws.
Hofstra tried to work the ball in to center David Taylor. Jones intercepted the pass but lost the ball. After a wild scramble, Taylor missed a short shot with two seconds left, teammate Eric Harvey rebounded and made his shot, but it was ruled it came after the buzzer.
Jones led AU with 20 points and eight rebounds and held Taylor, the ECC's leading scorer, to six points. Doug Mills led Hofstra with 18.