By Nick Hampton
WARNER — The Connors State Cowboys closed out an almost-perfect first half of the basketball season with a resounding 110-55 victory over the Hillsdale Baptist College junior varsity Thursday night at Melvin Self Fieldhouse.
The Cowboys, ranked 17th in this week’s NJCAA Division I poll, improved their record to 12-1 on the season. The visitors from Moore, who play their entire JV schedule in the first half of the season, dropped to 0-13 with one game left to play.
Connors jumped on top 8-0 in the first two minutes of the game. But the Saints fought back to within two at 11-9 with 16:30 to play in the half. The Cowboys then went on an 18-6 run over the next five minutes to put the game away. They also enjoyed a sizable height advantage over the Saints, dominating both ends of the floor and led by 40 points (64-24) at halftime.
So, other than a win, what do the Cowboys get out of a blow-out contest like this? Assistant coach and former Cowboy standout Cam Henderson says it’s about preparing for the rugged second part of the schedule.
”You get a chance to work on some of the stuff that you work on in practice against live competition.” said Henderson. “One of our goals is to improve our ability to shift defenses effectively in the middle of a game and we worked on that tonight shifting from man-to-man into different zone defenses. We’ll have to be able to do that smoothly against the conference teams we’ll face in the second part of the year.”
Devante Moore, one of three returners from last season, scored 14 points on the night and feels the team is jelling together well for a strong second-half run.
“Our freshmen players are coming along well. The only game we lost (to Paris Junior College in tournament play) we shouldn’t have, so I think we’re doing OK so far,” said the El Reno sophomore.
One of those young freshmen, 6-7 forward Craig Hill from Memphis, was the leading scorer for the Cowboys with 16 points. Joining Moore with 14 points was Quan Jones while Hakeem Harris added 11 and Josh Cameron 10 to round out the double-figure scorers for Connors. Darius Clater was the high-point man for Hillsdale with 17 points.
Following the holiday break, the Cowboys return to Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference action, where they are a perfect 3-0 so far, on Jan. 8 at NEO in Miami.
“When you come back, you’ve really got to have all your stuff in order and be ready to roll because it’s a gauntlet when the rest of the season is all conference play,” said Henderson.