The Central Christian College men's basketball team's winning streak continues to climb. On Saturday, the Tigers pushed their current streak out to six with a 84-73 win over the Northern New Mexico College Eagles.
The Tigers knew it would be a physical battle against the Eagles. They are an athletic and talented team that doesn't shoot exceptionally well from behind the three point arc, but is extremely good at getting to the rim.
The first 10 minutes of the game were neck and neck with two ties and two lead changes. At the 9:52 mark, the Tigers had a slim one point lead 13-12, but in the span of a minute, the Tigers went on a 7-0 run to get a little breathing room over the Eagles. The Tigers led by as many as nine before the Eagles went on a run of their own to cut the gap back down to three at the 5:39 mark. In the final five minutes of the first half, the Eagles continued to battle and at the end of the half, the Tigers held a slim three point lead 32-29.
Three minutes into the second half, the Eagles fought back and retook the lead 35-34 and then on the next possession pushed the lead out to three, 37-34, their largest of the game. It was short lived however as, Steve Kuminga knocked down a 12-footer, and then on their next possession, the Tigers retook the lead on a three pointer by Michael Gholston. Starting at the 14:35 mark, there was a three and a half minute stretch where there were four ties and seven lead changes. With 10:53 on the clock, the Tigers reclaimed the lead for the final time. The Tigers trailed 29-50, but a big three pointer by Ernest Burton, put the Tigers back up 52-49, a lead they wouldn't relinquish the rest of the way.
The game turned at the 9:55 mark when the Eagles were assessed a defensive foul, followed by a technical foul when an Eagle player voiced his displeasure at the foul call. The Tigers made three of the four free throws and their lead was suddenly up to six, 57-51. The Eagles didn't recover, and within a few minutes, the Tiger lead was up to double digits. The Tigers lead by as many as 16 down the stretch, but a late run by the Eagles cut the lead to seven with under a minute to play. In the end, the Tigers made their free throws, and extended their lead back out to 11 as the horn sounded.
All eight of the Tigers who played on Saturday found their way into the scoring column, led by Gholston, who had a big second half to finish with 20 points to lead all scorers. He was joined in double figures by Sam Clayborn who had 18, including an emphatic two handed dunk during the Tigers' run in the second half, and Ernest Burton who came off the bench to score 12 big points, including the three pointer to put the Tigers up for good.
"We were tested tonight by a physical team and came away with a win,” head coach Tony Romero said. “I thought we were really sluggish and lacked energy the first half. NNMC had a lot to do with that, I felt they dictated the tempo the first 20 minutes. The second half we did a better job pushing the pace of the game and were moving quicker in the half court and sped them up on their end. We didn't necessarily shoot the ball that well, which can happen in playing back to back nights. The stat of the night and I felt the difference in the game was our ability to crash the offensive boards and convert them into points. When we were missing, we found a way to gain extra possessions. That was a focus of ours going into the game, and we came away with 20 second chance points. Now we move to a five game road test.”
With the win, the Tigers are 14-5 on the year. They will go on the road Tuesday against Barclay College, and then follow that up with a weekend road trip down to New Mexico to play the same teams they played at home this weekend.