LINDSBORG — Central Christian College’s Tigers seem to be the kryptonite for the Bethany College Swedes.
Sam Clayborn drained a 15-footer with 2.4 seconds left on Monday to give Central an 86-84 road victory over the Swedes to complete the season series. The Tigers had defeated Bethany 85-81 in the first meeting at Alexander Arena.
Clayborn’s game-winner completed his 25-point night and dealt the Swedes an emotional blow as they prepare for Thursday’s monster KCAC showdown at Hahn Gym against conference-leading Tabor.
It also capped a monumental comeback by the Tigers, who at one point in the first half trailed by 17 points. Central improved to 9-5 and the two wins over Bethany are definitely a nice touch to the resume.
“Definitely two different halves to that game,” CCC coach Tony Romero said. “We came out with little focus on the defensive side of the ball in the first half. We pride ourselves on contesting shots and making it difficult to finish over us, but we were extremely slow on closing out the basketball and lost our guy way too much in the first half. We felt offensively we were getting good looks and shot a decent percentage in the first half. At half, we knew we had to come out and just play with a lot more passion and attitude on defense, and I was very pleased with the character and grit we showed in the second half, holding them to 29 percent and 29 points."
Both teams were lax on the defensive end in the first half as the Swedes led 55-43, as guard Joey Habtemariam drained six 3-pointers and had 20 points as Bethany looked to be in total control.
But Central’s Jubril Osagie and Ernest Burton started to cook in the second half and the Tigers gradually whittled away at the lead. Burton had a stretch where he scored 10 of 11 CCC points.
Central had nice balance as Osagie and Michael Gholston followed Clayborn with 17 points apiece and Burton came off the bench to score 15, making 6 of 8 from the field. The Tigers shot 56 percent for the second half and 52 percent for the game. Osagie and Kendric Warren were defensive menaces with 6 blocked shots apiece.
Bethany, now 9-7, also had good distribution. Habtemariam finished with 24 points, Tyler Larkin and Cody Harris scored 12 apiece and Ian Merzwinski chipped in with 10. The Swedes played without leading scorer Khalid Washington and backup Elvis Okafor as both reportedly were late getting back from the holiday break and watched the game from the bench.
Central has the rest of the week off as its next game is a week from today at home against Kansas Wesleyan.
Central (86) — Warren 2, Osagie 17, Clayborn 25, Nwosuh 7, Gholston 17, Lenard 1, Kuminga 2, Burton 15.
Bethany (84) — Habtemariam 24, Larkin 12, K. Kelly 6, Funderburke 9, Merzwinski 10, Thompson 3, Harris 12, D. Kelly 4, Patrick 2, Milosevic 2.