Central Christian College’s men accomplished something Saturday that no KCAC basketball team has been able to do.
Defeat Bethany College.
The Tigers took down the KCAC co-leader by hanging on for a wild 85-81 victory before an intimate gathering at Alexander Arena as both teams had to create their own energy with the students gone on Thanksgiving break.
“It was nip-tuck, nip-tuck the whole way and it’s one of those games that can go either way,” said CCC coach Tony Romero, whose team is now 6-3 after its fifth victory in a row. “We didn’t make our free throws (9 of 19) and didn’t finish strong down the stretch, but we made just enough to win. I thought defensively we did pretty dang good. That’s as talented of a team that we’ve faced as far as guys than can get it and go.”
The first half featured six ties and 10 lead changes before CCC inched ahead 38-37 on a 3-pointer by Michael Gholston.
The second half was more of the same. Finally, a 7-0 CCC sizz — highlighted by a Kendric Warren dunk — spurred the Tigers to a 75-67 lead.
The Swedes eventually pulled within 81-80 on a Jalen Thompson trey. Central kept the Swedes in the game with some rare shaky foul shooting.
With 5.4 seconds left, Gholston missed a pair of free throws, but the Tigers came up with a quick steal and Jubril Osagie layup for an 83-80 lead with 1.9 seconds left. But Osagie was called for excessive celebration, resulting in a technical. Khalid Washington, who had made 10 free throws in a row, missed the first and made the second to make it 83-81. Bethany then received the ball because of the technical, but Elvis Okafor’s in-bounds pass hit the ceiling and Gholston closed it out with a pair of free throws.
Gholston finished with 25 points and Osagie was a monster with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Sam Clayborn scored 14 points and Daniel Nwosuh chipped in with 12.
Washington led the Swedes with 19, while Cody Harris scored 13, Thompson 12 and Tyler Larkin had 11, along with 6 assists.
“We sometimes are the more athletic team, but going into this game they matched us man for man,” Romero said. “It was going to come down to which team sprinted back on defense more, who locked up in the halfcourt more. That was a big win for us because they got us last year when we were in Colorado. I really respect Bethany and coach (Clair) Oleen. He’s been there a long time and has a great program.”
Central plays an exhibition game Tuesday night at Emporia State, which doesn’t count toward the Tigers’ record. Bethany, now 6-4 overall after having its four-game winning streak snapped, has a tough road game Thursday as it plays at York, picked second in the KCAC preseason poll and 2-1 so far in conference play.
Central (85) — Warren 6, Osagie 20, Clayborn 14, Nwosuh 12, Gholston 25, Burton 5, Guillory 3.
Bethany (81) — Washington 19, Thompson 12, Larkin 11, Fuderburke 2, Merzwinski 5, Harris 13, Habtemariam 8, Kelly 8, Okafor 1, Patrick 2.