ABOVE: Cameron Hunt, senior guard, pushes past an Eagle defender during the Feb. 16 basketball game against No. 1 ranked Oklahoma Wesleyan. Hunt led the team in scoring and assists with 40 points and 11 assists. He was also honored as a graduating senior. The game was his final regular-season competition. The team will play again on Feb. 20 in the KCAC tournament in Stewart Field House. (Tessa Castor/Staff photographer)
By Tessa Castor
Double-overtime. Senior Night. A 24-4 final regular-season record. The highest-scoring player in Southwestern College history. A near-conference championship. A boisterous crowd.
In a much-anticipated regular-season wrap-up, the No. 6 Builder men’s basketball team faced the No. 1 Oklahoma Wesleyan Eagles at 5 p.m. Feb. 16 in Stewart Field House. The game had been advertised on social media and BuilderSports.com for weeks, and students, families and alumni packed the stands to watch what would be the Builders’ biggest game of the season, one that would crown the 2019 KCAC conference champion.
“We felt very prepared,” said Tim Miser, assistant coach. “We knew what they were trying to do.”
Coming into the game with an overall record of 27-2 were the Eagles, following their most recent game, an overtime loss of 102-104 to No. 5 Ottawa University. Their only other loss was given to them by the night’s competitors, the Builders, in a 68-72 loss on Jan. 7 in Oklahoma Wesleyan’s Mueller Sports Center.
The two teams began the game with full intensity, Brent Smith, senior center, of the Builders winning the jump. Starters Kyrece Mills, senior guard, Andrew Hamm, junior guard, Simpson Anderson, senior guard, Brent Smith, senior center, and Cameron Hunt, senior guard, rushed to offense but lost the ball within the game’s first 10 seconds.
The Eagles scored the first two points of the game, their shot quickly returned in Hunt scoring two for the Builders. Hunt soon brought the score to 5-2 with a three, but in the next play, the Eagles closed the score to 5-4 Builders.
An Eagle player’s foul of Ahmad Pratt, sophomore forward, sent Pratt to the free throw line, where he made one. The Builders extended their lead to 9-4 with a three by Hamm, the crowd gaining energy with each point scored.
“The crowd helped give us some energy,” said Miser. “The atmosphere was one of the best since I’ve been at SC.”
Following was an Eagle two-pointer and foul, sending the Builders’ Smith to the line to shoot two. He made one, and the Builders were ahead 12-6.
One Eagle play and three-pointer later, Pratt was called with an offensive charge. The Eagles returned to their basket to shoot three and tie the score at 12-12.
The teams continued the tie, and with 10 minutes left in the first half, they were tied 18-18.
A three-pointer by Jarehn White, junior guard, broke the tie, followed by an Eagle two-pointer.
Further in the game, Hunt was brought to the free throw line, making both shots and bringing the Builders to a 25-24 lead with only five minutes left in the half. This score remained for the next minute, until Troy Baker, junior sophomore center, made a two-pointer and extended the Builder lead to 27-24.
An Eagle two-pointer soon tightened the Builders’ lead to 27-26.
With two minutes, 50 seconds left in the half, Hunt scored the Builders’ fourth three-pointer. Free throws by an Eagle player brought score to a close 30-28. It looked as if the Eagles may tie the game as Joshua Wilchombe, OKWU senior forward, was brought to the free throw line. After he missed the two, White shot a three-pointer, the score at 33-28 Builders.
OKWU followed White’s three with a two of their own. Anderson then attempted a three and missed, the shot bringing the first half to a close with a Builder lead of 33-30.
The second half opened with two Builder threes by Anderson and a two-pointer by Hunt, the Builder lead extended to 41-34 within the half’s first three minutes. However, a defensive foul called on Baker sent OKWU’s Lance Tipton, junior forward, to the line, where he made both.
After another shot by Hunt, he was brought to the line upon being fouled by OKWU’s Jake Feickert, senior guard. Hunt missed his first free-throw and made his second. An Eagle three-pointer narrowed the score to 44-39 Builders.
Following the Eagle three was a Builder three by Baker and attempted three by Hunt, rebounded by Pratt. Hunt’s next shot attempt, a two-pointer, was also rebounded by Pratt, who was brought down with a foul by OKWU’s Janson Lietzke, sophomore forward.
White threw another two-pointer, the Builder lead now 49-39. The Builder’s 10-point lead, the largest lead of the game, was soon narrowed with two OKWU three-pointers and one two-pointer. What was once 10 points was suddenly a two-point lead by the Builders with a score of 49-47.
A Hunt three, with 11 minutes, 39 seconds left, was met with two Eagles two-pointers and a Builder timeout.
When the game resumed, Hamm nailed a two-pointer and rebounded an Eagles shot, which he passed to Hunt. Hunt’s attempted three was rebounded by OKWU’s Tipton, but Hunt retreived it to shoot two and bring a five-point Builder lead of 56-51.
An Eagle timeout led to an Eagle two-pointer, which was returned by an assist from Hunt, to Smith, who shot two. While the Builder two was returned by an Eagle two, Hamm scored the team’s 10th three-pointer, meaning everyone at the game received a voucher for a free Neives’ cheese, courtesy of the “3s for Cheese” promotion. The cheese took the game to an Eagle timeout by Eagles and Builder lead of 61-55.
Two-pointers were exchanged by the Eagles and Builders, and with only five minutes left in the game’s second half, the Builders led by 63-59.
While Hunt scored a three-pointer, the Eagles fought back with two two-pointers. OKWU’s Isaak Rowe, senior guard, rebounded an attempted three-pointer by Hamm. After an unsuccessful offensive play by the Eagles, a foul was called on Anderson and the ball returned to the Eagles. Its return caused an Eagle three, tying the game at 66-66 with two minutes, 50 seconds left. White matched this three, draining his shot immediately after.
While OKWU’s Lawrence attempted a three, the referees called a push on Andrew Hamm, putting him at the free-throw line where he made both shots. The Builders led with a close score of 69-68, which White attempted to extend with a three but missed.
For the first time in the game, the Eagles took the lead with a two-pointer and score of 69-70. Oklahoma Wesleyan called a timeout with one minute, 17 seconds left in the second half.
When the game resumed, Hunt missed an attempted three-pointer, its rebound crucial to the Eagles’ next two-pointer. With 55 seconds left in the second half, the Builders trailed the Eagles 69-72.
Instead of draining a three, Hunt scored two. The Builders called another timeout with 31 seconds remaining.
The referees called a foul on Hamm, bringing OKWU’s KJ Malveau, senior guard, to the line for a one-and-one shot. Malveau made the first and second shots, and his points were matched with an immediate dunk by Baker, the Builders trailing 73-74 with 15 seconds left.
OKWU’s Feickert ended up on the line to shoot one-and-one after an intentional foul by Hunt. Feickert made both shots, and the Eagles’ lead rose to 73-74. With the Builders back on offense, Hamm took a two-point shot, which he made, and was fouled by OKWU’s Brandon Bird, freshman guard, with five seconds left in the half. Hamm went to the line to shoot one, draining the shot and ringing in the game’s first overtime with a tied score of 76-76.
The overtime was welcomed with a Builder huddle at half court and Builder fans jumping and chanting in the stands. OKWU won this jump and made a two-pointer. The referees then called a foul on Baker, giving OKWU’s Feickert two free-throws. He made both.
Baker’s foul was answered when he attempted two, the foul called on the Eagles’ Rowe. Baker made both of his free-throws, the Builders trailing the Eagles 78-80 with 3:40 left in the overtime. A charge on OKWU’s Wilchombe returned the ball to Baker, who dunked to once again tie the game, this time at 80-80.
An Eagle two was answered by a Builder two, which was then answered by an Eagle three. Hunt then drained a two-pointer, and a jump ball while on defense by Hamm returned the ball to SC. Two-pointers by Hunt and White extended the Builder lead to 88-85 with only 12 seconds left in the overtime.
Despite the crowds’ chanting, dancing and jumping in the stands, the Eagles remained unfazed as an Eagle player slammed a three-pointer with two seconds left in the game. Hunt threw a half-pointer, which slammed off the Builder backboard and ended the overtime 88-88. It was time for a second overtime.
Once again, Oklahoma Wesleyan won the jump, though their attempted shot was blocked by Baker. A few unsuccessful plays later, Baker was placed on the line to shoot two, making both and finally breaking the overtime with three minutes, 22 seconds left in the second overtime. One minute later, Baker swished another two and the Builders led 92-88.
Hunt missed an attempted three before fouling the Eagles’ Malveau, who made both of his attempted free-throws. Another attempted three by Hunt bounced off the rim unsuccessfully. With one minute, 18 seconds left in the second overtime, Oklahoma Wesleyan made a shot and tied the game again at 92-92.
The Eagles continued their success with another three-pointer, which was answered with a three-pointer by the Builders’ Hunt with only 12 seconds left in the second overtime.
The Eagles’ offense remained steady through the end of the game, making a two-pointer with only two seconds left on the clock. Hunt threw a half-court shot but was unsuccessful. The game was over, and the Eagles had won 95-97.
The disappointing double-overtime loss for the Builders meant Oklahoma Wesleyan was named the 2019 KCAC champion. As Eagle fans stormed the court, Builder fans filed out of Stewart Field House and into the cold, met with newly-iced roads and hopes for the KCAC tournament next week.
“I’m very proud of our team’s effort tonight,” said Matt O’Brien, head coach. “Unfortunately, we were not able to get the win, but I’m thankful for how hard our team played all night.”
On the Builder end, Hunt ended the game with a double-double as he led the Builders with 40 points and 11 assists. Also achieving a double-double was rebound-leader Baker with 15 points and 12 rebounds. The team had 45 overall rebounds, 16 fouls and 17 assists.
Leading the Eagle scoreboard and in assists was Malveau with 24 points and five assists. Rowe led the team in rebounds with 15. The team had 54 overall rebounds, 13 fouls and 13 assists.
The Builders shot with a 46.8 percent field goal percentage, nearly eight percent more than the Eagles’ 38.9 percent. The Eagles were more successful in free throws, however, making 90 percent compared to the Builders’ 76.9 percent.
“It was a tough loss, but it’ll make us stronger in the conference tournament,” said Smith.
The night was also a celebration of the team’s graduating seniors, Kyrece Mills, senior guard, Simpson Anderson, senior guard, Cameron Hunt, senior guard, and Brent Smith, senior center, all recognized along with their families during halftime of the women’s game. While playing for SC, these men saw regular-season records of 24-6 in 2016, 21-9 in 2017 and 24-6 in 2018. This has been Southwestern’s best regular-season record since 2006.
“We were really prepared for the game coming in,” said Kenyatta Sewell, sophomore guard. “Coach always said, ‘Let the scouting report fail us,’ and it didn’t. We did everything we were supposed to do out there, down to the very end. I’m really proud of my brothers.”
As the No. 2 seed, the Builders will play again at 7 p.m. Feb. 20 in the KCAC tournament in Stewart Field House. The game, against the York College Panthers, may be watched live at https://portal.stretchinternet.com/sckans/. All Southwestern games may also be heard on 95.9 FM KSOK.
Southwestern College will host the first two rounds of the KCAC tournament before it moves to Wichita’s Hartman Arena Feb. 24.
“After such a tough loss, our team will need to show toughness and get geared up for the tournament,” said O’Brien.
“I’m proud of our team’s effort,” said Miser. “We are just trying to win the next game. The goal is to win the next game, always.”