At halftime last year during Central Christian College’s home games at Alexander Arena, then-redshirt Alonzo Stafford would provide the entertainment by putting on a jaw-dropping dunking exhibition.
Tiger fans couldn’t wait until Stafford became eligible to play, as they wanted to see just what the springy 6-6 skywalker could do in actual games.
The wait has been worth it.
Stafford’s freakish athleticism was on full display against arch-rival McPherson College Wednesday night as his 16-point, 16-rebound effort —which included three monster dunks — led the Tigers to a come-from-behind 81-71 victory.
It was the Tigers’ second win over the Bulldogs in the last three years. They are now 3-1 on the season while the Bulldogs fell to 3-2.
Stafford’s desperation 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer energized the Tigers, as it drew them within 34-32 at the break after being down by as many as nine points.
He then scored 8 points in the first six minutes of the second half as once the Tigers grabbed the lead, they never relinquished it. The margin swelled to as many as 14 and while the Bulldogs did slice it to six late, Central was playing with such emotion and passion before the packed house that it wasn’t going to lose on this night.
“Zo (Stafford), we knew it was going to take time for him and he’s going (good) every other game,” CCC coach Tony Romero said. “He played big tonight. Sixteen and 16, that’s unbelievable. He had some momentum changing (plays). I’m proud of our guys battling. We had a very, very slow start offensively, but I thought we did a good job responding toward the end of the half... our defense was the best it’s been all year.”
Daniel Nwosuh was able to control the game for the Tigers, who limited their turnovers to 15. Nwosuh scored 14 points and Michael Gholston added 13, 11 of those in the first half to keep the Tigers from getting blown out.
Romero also was pleased with his bench, which churned out 26 points. In fact when the Tigers made a big run midway through the second half, it was the play of Jerome Jackson, Ernest Burton and Sam Clayborn that keyed the spurt.
Darius Hill led Mac with 20 points and T.J. Grant scored 18, but they didn’t get a lot of help as some of the new Bulldogs were held in check in their first intracity game.
Mac coach Tim Swartzendruber said his team didn’t open things up early when it had a chance. The Bulldogs were able to get to the line early and often, but made just 12 of 21 before the half. They also were decimated on the boards, as the long-and-athletic Tigers yanked down 49 rebounds to just 35 for Mac, with Bulldog guard Louis Parker III coming off the bench to snare eight from his guard spot.
“I thought the game, in some ways, we lost it in the first half,” Swartzendruber said. “Our (missed) free throws and again, allowing them to get that shot at the end of the half was huge for them. They did a tremendous job on the glass, too. They just pounded us on the glass. I thought they went after balls harder than we did.”
The Tigers play another KCAC member Friday when they travel to Bethel.
The Bulldogs will have some time to regroup as they don’t play again until Nov. 21 when they host the Bulldog Classic. Baker is the opponent on the 21st, then Haskell is here on the 22nd.
Central (81) — Stafford 16, Quincy 3, Nwosuh 14, Gholston 13, Rojas 9, Jackson 8, Burton 8, Clayborn 6, Adams 4.
Mac (71) — Beeler 4, Hill 20, Henson 9, Grant 18, Berry 5, Lakin 1, Bachura 5, Crook 3, Parker 3, Martinez 3.