ABOVE: Geoff Salas, junior guard, jumps into the air in hopes of earning another point for his fellow Builders. The men’s basketball team defeated Bethel Threshers last night with a thrilling fight. (Mallory Graves/Staff photographer)
By Daegiona Wilson
As students and guests filled the stands Wednesday night upon returning from winter break, it benefited the Southwestern Men’s Basketball team, as they clinched a much-needed win, defeating the Bethel Threshers 80-64.
The first time these two teams met this season, was the first game of conference play. The two teams battled it out, but the Threshers were able to pull away with a 78-73 win over the Moundbuilders. The game contributed to Bethels 4-0 start into conference play, and set off a downwards spiral for the Moundbuilders, as they were 0-4 before clinching their first conference win against Sterling.
This game was quite different, as the Moundbuilders were looking for redemption, and their eighth conference win out of their last nine.
The game was a hard fought battle start to finish. The Threshers had a hot start defensively, offsetting the Builders early into the game. The Threshers got Lorenzo Martinez, senior forward, the Moundbuilders leading rebounder in foul trouble early, as well as, eliminated Andrew Hamm, senior guard, the KCAC’s third leading scorer from making a single basket throughout the entire first half.
Quintin Wallace, junior forward, came up big time for the Moundbuilders as Martinez sat the bench. Wallace ended the first half with eight points, and was a factor of playing solid defense down low.
Wallace said, “It just comes from trusting my teammates, and my teammates trusting me, and I’m thankful to be in a position where they can trust me.”
The Moundbuilders did their job defensively as well, as they forced Jaylon Scott, sophomore guard, to 2-9 from the field, and just five total points.
Scott did damage the last time the two teams met, as he had 30 points, and 17 rebounds.
As the Threshers relied on their electric foot movement defensively, it wasn’t enough as Southwestern began to capitalize on shots, and took a 37-27 lead over the Threshers heading into intermission.
The crowd was fired up during half time, which was highlighted by a tricycle race between students.
It was much needed to start the second half, as the Moundbuilders seemed to need energy to execute the win against the aggressive Threshers.
With a mix of the officials allowing both teams to play a physical battle, and the Moundbuilders struggling to beat the Threshers nearly perfect press, the Moundbuilders lead decreased to as low as seven before later stretching to as high as 19.
Noah Webster, junior guard, showed why he is a threat for defenders, as he was the player to break the Threshers press best, and contribute to Southwestern pulling away from the Threshers in the last ten minutes of regulation.
Coach O’Brien said, Webster, “He’s big time, he’s strong and fast, and so when a body bumps into him, he’s not going to go off balance as much as some of the other guys.”
Hamm who was scoreless first half, showed why he is such a talented player, as he was 10-13 the second half, 4-5 beyond the arc, and ended with thirty points.
“He was dynamic in the second half. I’m more proud, honestly, of like a couple rebounds and what he did on the defensive end for us. Then fighting back, because he didn’t have a good first half” said O’Brien.
The Moundbuilders continued to play their part on the defensive end, as they held the Threshers to just 32 percent from the field.
“Our defensive is really dynamic right now. We are number one in the country, and today, Bethel’s whole team shoots 32 percent”, said O’Brien.
Overall, the Moundbuilders ended the night sixteen points over the Threshers.
Four Builders seen double figures. Ahmad Pratt, junior forward, ended with a game high 12 rebounds, with Troy Baker, junior forward, following him with 11.
For Bethel, three players seen double digits, with Terrell Marshall, senior guard, leading the way with 15 points.
Overall, O’Brien said, “it was a tough game. It’s amazing how we were able to keep the distance.”
The Moundbuilders now move to 8-5 in conference play, sitting in a 5th place tie with Bethel heading into Saturday’s game against the conferences’ powerhouse, and No. 7 in the nation, the Ottawa Braves.
The last game between the two, ended on a buzzer beating layup by, Darryl Bowie, junior guard, sealing a 92-90 win for the Braves.
As the Moundbuilders have turned their season around, and are ready to continue up the ladder of the KCSC, they will make a trip to Ottawa, looking to clinch yet another key game.
Tipoff is at 5 p.m. Saturday night in Wilson Fieldhouse.
Tune into the game by visiting, https://portal.stretchinternet.com/sckans/