Lumpkins lifts American in first game back at Bender

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Sports,College,Kevin Dunleavy

Senior

missed a year to play minor league baseball

After a year in professional baseball, Stephen Lumpkins was thrilled to be back at Bender Arena. It had been 20 months since his last game in the gym at American University. It didn't take him long to get comfortable.

On the Eagles' first possession, he hammered home a dunk. On the second, he pump-faked at the free throw line and drove to the basket for a layup.

It took his teammates a while to warm to his homecoming, however, as American needed a Lumpkins-led rally from five points down in the second half and four free throws in the final 13 seconds from senior Daniel Munoz to subdue Mount St. Mary's 62-57 before 1,323.

Energized by his return, the 6-foot-8 senior scored 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, both game highs, as he paved the way for a 34-19 edge on the boards. Lumpkins hit seven of eight shots and added four steals. With its second straight win, American improved to 2-1, while Mount St. Mary's of the Northeast Conference fell to 1-2.

In the summer of 2011, Lumpkins figured he had played his final college basketball game. He was drafted by the Kansas City Royals and wooed by an enticing contract. But after pitching to an ERA of 8.27 in 15 rookie league games, his baseball career was over, and he applied to regain his final year of eligibility at American.

Always productive but sometimes passive, Lumpkins showed plenty of leadership and verve in a seesaw second half when Mount St. Mary's took leads of five points early and three points late. Both times Lumpkins had the answer, scoring baskets on the Eagles' next two possessions.

Julian Norfleet scored 17 points for Mount St. Mary's, but the visitors couldn't match the inside power of AU and the 3-point shooting of senior Mike Bersch, who scored all 15 of his points from beyond the arc, where he hit five of seven.

Wednesday, however, was a celebration of Lumpkins. His most emphatic basket came on a feed from sophomore John Schoof. After Lumpkins drove home a two-fisted slam, he sought out Schoof on the trip down the floor and slapped his hand with joy.

It was good to be back at Bender.

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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