JOPLIN, Mo — The Central Christian College men's basketball team remained perfect in 2017, winning their fourth game in a row Tuesday night, defeating Ozark Christian College 94-62.
At the beginning of the season, head coach Tony Romero knew this group of Tigers had the potential to be something special. However, they stumbled out of the gate and started the season at 1-3. They didn't hit the panic button, and since that slow start, they have gone 11-2 in their last 13 starts.
On a night when their two top scorers combined for just 14 points, they still managed to win by 30. They have found a way to pick each other up when one or two of their teammates are having an off night.
Against the Ambassadors, it took the Tigers about 12 to 15 minutes to get into a rhythm, probably due in part to the five hour van ride down to southwestern Missouri. They got things going late in the first half and led by 14, 45-31, heading into the break. The Tigers shot 52 percent from the floor in the first half, and 50 percent from beyond the arc. The Tigers struggled was from the free throw line, where they were just 3 of 8.
The Tigers kept their foot on the gas in the second half. They quickly stretched their halftime lead out past 20, and then in the final five minutes, with the bench players in, pushed it out past 30.
The difference in the game was the defensive intensity by the Tigers coupled with their ability to score in the paint. They held the Ambassadors to 31 percent shooting in the game, and forced 17 turnovers. The Tigers also had a big height advantage inside The Tigers outscored the Ambassadors down low, 40-24.
Four Tigers scored in double figures led by Jubile Osagie who had 21 points. He also grabbed 12 boards to give him another double double. Joining him in double figures was Enersts Burton with 19, Daniel Nwosuh with 13, and Kendric Warren with 12. Warren also had a huge night on the glass with 15 rebounds of his own.
"We were anchored tonight by our front line guys,” Romero said. “Sometimes, those guys (Ken, Jubril, and Steve) don't get enough mention on how important they are to our success. Early on, I thought we were lazy closing out the basketball and soft on the boards, as the game went on we improved. Anytime, you can go on the road and win, we will celebrate it."
With the win, the Tigers are now 12-5 on the season. They have a big weekend upcoming, when they host Association of Independent Institution opponents Northern New Mexico College and Johnson & Wales University in an invitational classic on Friday and Saturday. They will play Northern New Mexico at 8 p.m. on Friday and then JWU at 6 p.m. Saturday.
"I feel like we are starting to understand each other's value to one another and we are benefiting as a group because of it,” Romero said. “We are looking forward to the next two days of practice to prepare for the start of conference play this weekend."