By Jake Loel
The Crusaders overpowered the Gentlemen of Centenary College of Louisiana on Friday, Feb. 6 in an overtime battle. The score, 87-84, does not do the game justice. There was a sense of urgency amid the pregame excitement, perhaps due to the Crusaders’ crushing loss to Centenary three weeks earlier. Or it was possibly owing to the realization by the starters, almost all of whom are seniors, that they have a limited number of games to prove themselves in conference play before the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference championships, which will be held at the University of Dallas’ Maher Athletic Center.
Although the Crusaders managed to stay with the much bigger Gentlemen, the majority of the starters appeared sluggish in the beginning of the game, and so with 14 minutes left in the half, Head Coach Jarred Samples made the interesting decision to substitute sophomore guard Lorenzo Gonzalez into the game, while still playing senior guard Kym Malone. Both players usually play point guard, and the substitution led to some confusion, with Malone, usually very active, more than once unsure of what to do with himself in plays. This was only the beginning of what became a tactical battle throughout the first half and into the second.
The first half saw as many Crusader substitutions as some entire games do, and both sides threw up new offenses and defenses, sometimes mainly big men on the floor, sometimes mainly guards. When the first half ended, the Crusaders were visibly exhausted and frustrated by the bigger, stronger Gentlemen, although they were only down by three. In the second half, Malone fouled within 13 seconds, and Coach Samples pulled him from the game. Samples kept him on the bench for much of the second half, until Gonzalez could no longer handle the full court press defense the Gentlemen put on him.
When Malone did come back on the floor, he did so with a vengeance. He led the team away from its deficit, and soon the Gentlemen had to change defenses, recognizing their press was only exhausting them against the speedy ball-handling skills of Malone. Nevertheless, with 2:30 left in the game, the Crusaders found themselves down by six, and an and-one dunk over Malone by the Gentlemen seemed to dampen spirits. All hope seemed lost until a series of quick three-point plays, the last one made with four seconds left in regulation time by Gonzalez, tied the score.
The Gentlemen were unable to capitalize on the final seconds and the Crusaders found themselves in overtime for the first time at home this season. Any thought of giving up had long since left the minds of the Crusaders, and big shots by sophomore guard Michael Sarrat and Gonzalez, plus some incredible offensive and defensive plays by senior Mark Promberger, helped the Crusaders eke out the three-point victory, despite a hair-raisingly close final two minutes.
On Saturday night, the Crusaders managed to keep their winning streak going against Colorado College going in a game that ended 65-59. The team has two games on the road before coming back home for their final regular season games on Feb. 19 and Feb. 21. During the games, fans saw significant taping on Malone’s forefinger, which brought speculation about his playing capability, although it did not seem to affect him as he played.
“The tape is on a jammed finger and it allows … a little more movement during games,” senior guard Zach Royal said.