BY CHANCE WEEKS-WILLIAMS, Staff Reporter
Central was looking to respond in a big way after Friday’ s loss to Hawaii Pacific. They did just that as they defeated the Brigham Young University- Hawaii Seasiders, 100-93, in overtime.
The win was Central’s (2-2 overall) first at home as the Wildcats finished 1-1 in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference/PacWest Tournament.
The Wildcats were led by senior guard Mark McLaughlin, who was last year’s GNAC scoring champion. McLaughlin and fellow redshirt senior forward JB Pillard III, who transferred from Northwest Nazarene University last year, opened up the game with Central’s first eight points.
Senior center Kevin Davis was inhaling rebounds for the Wildcats both offensively and defensively, finishing with 12 on the night.
“Rebounds start in practice, we just have to go hard in practice,” Davis said.
After trailing by 10 points early in the game, the Wildcats fought back to cut the lead to eight points at the end of a very sloppy first half.
Head Coach Greg Sparling addressed his players at halftime about the huge amount of turnovers they had.
“First half I can’t explain it until I watch the film, we were throwing the ball around the yard like it was hot potato,” Sparling said.
Central came out hot at the start of the second half and tied the game at 55 after six minutes of play. The intensity exploded when Davis had a huge put-back dunk after a McLaughlin miss. With nine minutes left in the second half, Central took its first lead since the opening half and then elevated the lead to four points moments later.
Freshman guard Jalen Peake stepped in as a sub and knocked down two 3-pointers that took the air out of every Seasider’s comeback attempt.
“Our freshmen were great, they came in and gave us energy. Jalen hit some big shots, Terry Dawn hit some big shots,” McLaughlin said.
BYU-Hawaii took a late 82-81 lead, but a costly foul put the always-deadly McLaughlin at the line with 20 seconds left.
After sinking both of the free throws, a late steal by Davis led to another free throw opportunity for junior guard Joshua Lorde.
Central made a costly foul that put BYU on the line and tied the game from the stripe. Those free throws sent the game into overtime after a failed last second shot by McLaughlin.
Overtime was like watching a prizefight with both teams knocking down shot after shot.
“When we went into overtime we didn’t panic, our guys did a nice job of getting stops,” Sparling said.
The play of the game came when Davis made a monumental block that snuffed out any hopes of a Seasider victory.
“The block that Kevin had would be a top 10 on ESPN,” Sparling said.
Kevin Davis finished with 17 points, 12 rebounds, five blocks, and three steals, while McLaughlin finished with 30 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists, two blocks and a steal. McLaughlin scored most of his points from the free throw line, where he was an impressive 17-18.
As a team the Wildcats shot 45 percent from the field, 38 percent from downtown and 85 percent from the free throw line. Central also had a nice distribution among all its players as five players scored in double digits.
“Our bench was into it, so that helps,” McLaughlin said. “It’s going to be really big (in the season), because it opens me up more when I do go to score because when they see me score a lot of points, they want to send a couple guys at me. Dropping it down to the big guys is going to help us as a team, it will show them that we have weapons that are really talented as well.”
Central plays again at Nicholson Pavilion when they host Walla Walla University (0-9 overall) on Dec. 1 at 3 p.m.