The No. 25-ranked Mid-America Christian University Evangels rallied from 13 points down and then hung on at the end for a 76-72 victory over the No. 20-ranked Rogers State University Hillcats in an intense Sooner Athletic Conference matchup Thursday night (Feb. 7) inside the Gaulke Activity Center. The victory moves the Evangels to 8-4 in the SAC, good for third place and one half game behind Oklahoma Baptist University, who will pay a visit to MACU next Thursday.
The Evangels led by six on two occasions in the final two minutes, but struggled putting away the pesky Hillcats.
A layup from Angelo Lewis gave the Evangels a five-point lead and following a score from Alex Ewings, Lewis stepped to the line and hit two big free throws to again make it a five-point game at 72-67 with 35 seconds left.
But RSU kept coming and had two chances to pull even in the final 18 seconds, but came up empty both times.
After two misses at the line by Charlie Shorter, the Evangels fouled on the rebound and put Brian Gibson at the line with a chance to tie. Gibson split a pair and Reggie Davis then stepped to the charity stripe and also split his two free throws, once again giving the Hillcats a chance to tie or take the lead.
But Shorter stole a long pass from Kendrell Thompson with 11 seconds left to preserve the lead.
Shorter redeemed himself at the line by sinking both shots and then a stop on the defensive end closed out the win for the Evangels.
The Evangels (13-8, 8-4 SAC) got down by 13 after a jumper from Justynn Hammond made it 45-32 at the 14:45 mark of the second half before making their charge back.
Shorter hit a three that capped a 17-4 surge over a four-minute span that gave the Evangels their first lead since the 3:29 point of the opening half.
A three by Kendrell Thompson and bucket from Donald Williams put the Hillcats (17-8, 5-6 SAC) back in front by four, but the Evangels answered again with a 14-4 run as a trey from Camilo Valencia made it 64-58 with 3:13 to go.
The Evangels led the entire first half before the Hillcats scored the final 12 points over the final 3:49 to take a 32-24 lead at the break.
Shorter tallied a game-high 25 points along with six rebounds, while Lewis recorded another double-double of 15 points and and 16 rebounds. Valencia scored and dished out a team-high six assists and also had a game-high four steals.
Thompson paced the Hillcats with 16 points and Brian Gibson led the way with 16 boards.
The Evangels forced 24 turnovers and also dominated the glass with a 46-34 rebounding edge.
MACU will now take the next seven days off to recharge their batteries for a battle with No. 10-ranked and defending NAIA National Runner Up OBU next Thursday night (Feb. 14). Tip-off for the showdown is at 8 p.m. inside the Gaulke Activity Center.