By Nick Hampton
Bacone men’s basketball coach Alan Foster was looking for a wow win for his team as it comes down the final stretch of the season.
And the Warriors did just that as they avenged a 23-point defeat a month ago, knocking off the Our Lady of The Lake University Saints 104-97 in Red River Athletic Conference action Monday night at the Palmer Center.
“We played with so much more composure tonight than we did down there,” said Foster. “We knew we had to limit our turnovers and we had 18 tonight. I think we had over 30 when we played them at their place.”
The Saints ran out to a 13-2 lead in the first 3:30 of the game as they hit five shots in a row. But the Warriors steadily worked their way back and the Saints went just 8 of 32 (25 percent) the rest of the half.
Bacone took its first lead of the game, 28-27, with eight minutes to play in the half and then went on an 11-6 run to open up a 39-33 lead with just over a minute to play. The Warriors went into the locker room with a 43-40 advantage.
The Warriors (5-22, 3-17) used the play of 6-foot-6 junior Christian Smith, who scored 20 of his game high 30 points in the second half to open a lead that hung around 10 for most of the half.
The Saints (19-10, 15-6) used a half-court trap to try and force Bacone turnovers and the Warriors repeatedly broke the press resulting in easy baskets or free-throw opportunities for Smith and company.
“We came in here last night (Sunday) and worked for about an hour and made some adjustments to our press break,” said Foster. “We felt if we would not make turnovers and break the press, we would have numbers at the other end.”
Besides breaking the press, the Warriors also won the game from the charity line as the Saints were whistled for 33 fouls in the game. And it was down the stretch at the free-throw line that Derrick Thomas, who had 22 points for the Warriors, shined. With the Bacone lead down to 92-88, Thomas hit a key basket and six free throws in the final 1:06 of the game to put it away for the Warriors.
Besides Smith and Thomas, Alex Stanley scored 17 for the Warriors and Kwame Bates tallied 14. Lo’Ron Smith was the leading scorer for the Saints with 22.
“It’s a huge win for us,” said Foster. “They’re a quality team. They’ve been ranked in the top 25 at one point and you tell the kids to keep working and believing and they’ll get that “wow” victory.”
OLLU 82, Bacone 64
The Lady Warriors, who lost by 24 points last month to the Saints, played a great first half trailing 41-36 at intermission. It was enough to impress OLLU women’s coach Chris Minner.
“Bacone outplayed us in the first half,” he said. “They were hustling, going after loose balls and they came out played harder than we did.”
But turnovers proved to be the undoing of the Lady Warriors. Despite having 16 in the first half, they stayed close by going 12-of-14 from the free-throw line, but that didn’t work for them in the second half.
“At half time we talked about not turning the ball over so much,” said Bacone coach Robbie Shay. ”But then we turned around and had 19 turnovers in the second half.”
Bacone was still down just 10 points at 54-44 early in the second half but the Saints blistering up-tempo style and half-court trap took its toll and they went on a 14-0 run in just 3:30 to put the game away.
The Lady Warriors (8-17, 5-14) had just one player, Emily Lovell, in double figures with 10 points while Nikkia Davis led the way for the Saints (26-2, 19-2) with 19 points.
Despite the loss, Bacone still has a chance to make the conference tournament if it can win its final two games, both at home, Saturday against Texas College and next Monday as it hosts Jarvis Christian.