By Ben Payner
The new year did not treat the Lords basketball team well as they dropped four straight games before beating rival Denison University 72-69 on Jan. 14, but then lost a hard-fought matchup last Saturday afternoon against the Wabash College Little Giants 60-56.
The win over Denison was a big one for two reasons. First, the Lords could not afford to let their losing streak reach five games. Second, such rivalry games are huge for a team’s momentum; records don’t matter in these types of games and winning can set the tone for the rest of the season going forward. The standouts in this game were Tim Connolly ’16, Brien Comey ’16 and Jonathan Amador ’15, each contributing double-digit point totals and efficient shooting from the field. Combined, they scored 44 points on 18-30 (60 percent) shooting.
The Lords’ struggles over the break were largely attributed to poor play on the offensive end. It was huge to get a strong offensive showing from Connolly and Comey, but especially Amador off the bench. Amador is a streaky scorer and athletic wing defender who responded admirably to being benched just before break. He still plays a handful of meaningful minutes and now provides an off-the-bench scoring punch with Dan Voigt ’16.
Even though the box score indicates a three-point victory, the margin was more comfortable than that. Denison hit a three with 0.1 seconds left to cut the lead in half from 6 to 3. Strong late-game free throw shooting closed out the game for the Lords.
The Lords rode the momentum from their win over Denison into another conference showdown with a solid Wabash team. Unfortunately, the Lords did not have enough to pull off the upset and fell at home. A hard-fought first half had the Lords trailing by five heading into halftime. Alexander Powell ’18 had a coming-out party in the first half, scoring 11 of the Lords’ 23 points — the Lords as a team shot 35.7 percent in the first half but Powell was hot, going perfect from the field, including two three-pointers. The second half was highly contested with Wabash getting its biggest lead of the game, up by seven, after a three-pointer with 1:24 left. The shot was a dagger. On the previous two possessions, while only down four, the Lords had critical turnovers and failed to even get a shot.
Powell finished the day with a career-high 15 points, four rebounds and a highlight reel block. In a classy move, Powell attributed his success to his older teammates. “College basketball is an adjustment from high school basketball because of the speed and physicality,” he said. “Once I figured out some tricks from the older guys, it has become much simpler.” He said he just wants to “contribute [to the team] in any way possible.” Powell represents a youth movement for the Lords and Head Men’s Basketball Coach Daniel Priest. Perhaps due to the losing streak and an injury for Connor Garrity ’15, Priest shuffled his rotation and now plays Powell with his classmates Phillip Crampton ’18 and Bennett Grigull ’18.
With half of the conference schedule left, the Lords have time and are in a position to improve their standing. Currently they are tied for fifth in the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) with four games out of first. Connolly made it clear that while the team isn’t looking at the standings, they know “anything can happen in the league, so there’s no team that is safe.” Connolly provided some insight into how the team can move up in the standings, saying, “Basketball has been and always will be about getting buckets, so we just have to keep doing that and we’ll be in a good position to contend.”