With 5:34 remaining in the first half of Elon University’s 100-57 exhibition basketball win over Lynchburg College, freshman forward Christian Hairston came up with a steal. He streaked down the court, eyes on the basket. In his first game in Alumni Gym, Hairston aimed to leave an impression, but Lynchburg senior guard Manny Hernandez stood in his way.
The impediment posed no problem to Hairston, as he went up and over Hernandez for a thunderous dunk and drew a foul in the process.
“It started off with a steal,” Hairston said. “It was an open court, I’m just going to go dunk it, it’s casual. I was looking to the right and I saw (Hernandez) coming. I looked at him and he looked back at me. It looked like he was going to jump and I made sure that I jumped higher than him so I put it down on him. He swung and he missed, it worked out well for us.”
“That brought a lot of energy to the building,” said senior guard Sebastian Koch. “There were still oohs and aahs two plays after.”
“I don’t care who you are, that was an impressive dunk,” Elon head coach Matt Matheny said.
The three-point play gave Elon a 35-19 advantage and helped the Phoenix break out of a slow start.
Elon was 5 of 14 on free throw attempts and 2 of 10 from the stripe with 8:34 remaining in the game’s opening half after trailing 10-9 a few minutes prior. Despite the slow start, Matheny was not overly concerned.
“We missed too many (free throws),” Matheny said. “We want to shoot over 70 percent as a team. I’m of the belief that you don’t talk a lot about free throws. We’ve got good free throw shooters, our good shooters missed tonight.”
“We just need to move the ball as a team,” Samson said. “We did that well tonight- had a lot of good cuts, a lot of good screens from the big men, they just got me open. I have to give credit to the big men.”
Samson earned the start due to an injury to senior guard Jack Isenbarger, who has not practiced at all this season with what Matheny referred to as a “stress reaction” in his foot. Matheny said he anticipated that Isenbarger would return to practice soon and that if he is ready, he could play on Friday evening in the regular season opener. He has been in a walking boot for a few weeks and was in a shirt and tie for the exhibition.
Aside from Samson, freshman guard Luke Eddy scored 15 points for Elon, who shot 44.4 percent as a team from the field. Junior guard Austin Hamilton added 14 points and senior forwards Ryley Beaumont and Lucas Troutman scored 11 points each.
Elon will open regular season play on Friday night against Div. III Washington and Lee University. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. in Alumni Gym.