DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — You can’t call it an upset, but a few eyebrows probably were raised Friday when Central Christian College’s men outlasted county rival Bethany College 80-76 in the first round of the Bahama House Classic.
The Tigers, winning for the sixth straight time, improved to 12-1 and most likely will play No. 1-ranked Embry-Riddle for the tourney championship on Saturday. Central also ended Bethany’s eight-game winning streak as the Swedes had been steaming toward a possible national ranking in the next poll.
“Good team win tonight,” an excited CCC coach Tony Romero said. “I was very pleased with our bench tonight, we got good contributions from several guys at critical points in the game. We knew coming into the game that was one area we thought we had the advantage and our guys responded. Defensively, we did a good job keeping them off the glass. We need to be better offensively executing tomorrow night, we were really stagnant and careless at times.”
The Tigers led by as many as 13 points in the first half before settling for a 43-36 lead. Bethany, however, charged back to actually take the lead. The Swedes were up as much as 65-62 with 6:54 to go after a basket by Brandon Huskey, but it was all Tigers from there. A 3-pointer by Kris Quant tied the game for CCC and eventually a Daniel Nwosuh basket put CCC up for good as it protected the lead like a fortress down the stretch. Nathan Fort and Michael Gholston both hit a pair of free throws in the waning seconds to close it out.
Aaron Miller led the Tigers with 21 points, Nwosuh added 15 and Fort provided a huge lift on the bench with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Bethany All-American candidate Idris Ibin Idris scored 27 points to hit his season average on the nose and he also yanked down 12 rebounds. Nathan Coleman had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Central did a great job on 19-point-a-game scorer Kirby Hawkins, holding him to just eight. The Swedes struggled from 3-point, making just 4 of 19.
Bethany is expected to play Trinity International on Saturday for third place.
Central (80) — Miller 21, Nwosuh 15, Rojas 5, Quincy 2, Warren 6, Quant 3, Gholston 7, Clayborn 5, Adams 5, Fort 11.
Bethany (76) — Ibin Idris 27, Abad 7, Bieberle 6, Coleman 12, Roybal 8, McLin 4, Hawkins, 8, Huskey 4.