By Ben Payner
The Lords’ struggle with rebounds cost them their game against Wittenberg University on Wednesday, Jan. 21, but they were able to rebound from the loss with a home win Saturday over Hiram College. The Lords are now 6-11 on the season and 4-6 in North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) play after splitting this week’s two games against conference rivals.
After a tight first half at Wittenberg, the game shifted in favor of the home Tigers. The Lords were on the wrong end of an 11-0 scoring run from the 11-minute to six-minute mark in the second half, in which their two-point lead turned into a nine-point deficit. Despite pulling within five points of Wittenberg on a couple of occasions, the Lords could not catch the Tigers. The Lords ended with an 11-point deficit, losing by a final score of 73-62.
The loss came despite a career-high 25 points from John Bray ’15. Bray’s performance during the game was strong all around. His 25 points came on an efficient 10-12 (83.3 percent) shooting from the field and 5-7 from the free-throw line. He also grabbed four rebounds and dished out five assists.
It’s a shame the rest of the team couldn’t get it going on the scoring front. Tim Connolly’s ’16 nine points were the second-highest on the team. The Achilles heel for the Lords in this one was on the boards. Wittenberg out-rebounded the Lords 42-21, including 16-5 on the offensive glass. It’s hard for a team to win a game when it gets out-rebounded 2-1 and gives up 16 second-chance points.
The Lords had a chance to work on bouncing back from the Wittenberg game when the Hiram College Terriers came to Gambier on Saturday. Hiram’s roster is smaller than Kenyon’s, and the Lords also boast a number of tall players. However, the Terriers’ lack of size only enhanced their grit, and they pressed the Lords all game.
While this strategy might work against other NCAC teams, the Lords’ strength is their guard play. In their third and fourth seasons in the program at this point, respectively, Connolly and Cooper Handelsman ’15 have seen it all and were not fazed by Hiram’s press. The Lords easily broke the press, leading to 3-on-2 fast-break opportunities and a lot of points for Bray and front-court mate Brien Comey ’16. The Lords earned an 85-74 victory over the Terriers.
Bray followed his 25-point outburst with a 20-point performance. Over the two games, Bray scored 45 points on 18-24 shooting (75 percent), 9-11 (82 percent) from the line, with six rebounds and nine assists. His play earned him the NCAC player of the week award.
“I’ve just been capitalizing on the opportunities that our guards have created,” Bray said. “Cooper and Tim have done a great job at driving and drawing the help defense, which has opened me up for some easy baskets.”
Comey also had a strong game with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Handelsman and Connolly chipped in for a combined 22 points, eight rebounds and six assists while the bench trio Jonathan Amador ’15, Ethan Shapiro ’17 and Phillip Crampton ’18 scored a combined 21 points on 6-11 (55 percent) from the field and a perfect 8-8 from the charity stripe. As a team the Lords shot 90 percent from the free-throw line and out-rebounded the Terriers by 7, 34-27. These are winning ingredients and should help keep the season lively the rest of the way.
Lords’ Head Coach Dan Priest remains optimistic about the rest of the season. “I think we have continued to improve as a team and find our roles and have put ourselves in position to accomplish good things in the last month of our season,” Priest said. “Our seniors have provided great leadership and perseverance, which has made a big impact.”
Last night, the Lords were on the road again to take on the Oberlin College Yeomen. They did not take the momentum from the Hiram win with them, and lost to the Yeomen 62-50