(RMC release)

PHOENIX, Ari. – The Rocky Mountain College men’s basketball team opened a three-game trip to Arizona with an 81-78 loss to Menlo College in their first game at the Cactus Classic on Sunday afternoon.

After racing out to an early 14-4 advantage, Rocky (6-4) couldn’t keep the offense flowing smoothly. Menlo (11-2) closed the half with a 14-4 run to lead 41-33 at intermission.

The Battlin’ Bears trailed 54-42 with 14:46 to play when they began to chip away at the deficit. They twice got within one point in the final three minutes, and had a chance at the lead when a Chad Kananen three was off the mark with 47 seconds remaining.

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After getting a defensive stop, Latrelle Franklin had his jumper go long with five seconds on the clock. Menlo controlled the rebound and hit a pair of free throws with 1.8 seconds to play. Franklin then was off the mark on a half-court heave as time expired.

Rocky never got in much of an offensive rhythm after the first five minutes. The Battlin’ Bears shot 37.2 percent from the floor and hit on 12 of 28 from beyond the arc. They grabbed 17 offensive rebounds for 14 points.

Jared Samuelson came through with 24 points and 17 rebounds for Rocky. He had seven offensive rebounds and made 9 of 16 shots. Chad Kananen hit his first six shots and finished 7 of 10 with six threes for 20 points.

Menlo shot 47.4 percent and had a 38-30 advantage in points in the paint. They did commit 15 turnovers which Rocky converted into 21 points.

Joe’l Towers added 10 points for the Battlin’ Bears. Franklin had 10 assists and four steals.

Menlo had four players score in double figures with Jeremiah Testa leading the way with 17 points.

Rocky will play its second game of the Cactus Classic on Monday against Ottawa (Ariz.) at 11 a.m. All game are being played at Chandler-Gilbert Community College.