By Kurt Ritzman
Assistant Sports Editor
After an even first 21 minutes Wednesday night, Southwestern Community College went on an 11-2 run and stayed in front the rest of the way for a 70-62 win over Clinton Community College in men's basketball.
“Our intensity dropped, and they picked up theirs,” Clinton sophomore Charles Pemberton said.
“We stopped hustling and crashing the boards,” Clinton freshman Kimani Stevens said. “We stopped doing a lot of things that we were doing in the first half.
“We relaxed and didn’t get after them. That’s what hurt us the most.”
The pair from the Virgin Islands combined for 22 points and 15 rebounds after getting back to the area from break late Tuesday night.
“It was exhausting,” Pemberton said. “We have a little bit of jet-lag because we’re two hours ahead in the Virgin Islands. We tried to adjust. We haven’t practiced in three weeks.”
Stevens noted the change in climate from hopping on a plane in the Virgin Islands to landing in the Midwest, where he saw snow on the ground for the first time.
“The weather is much different,” he said. “We’re always warm. It’s 80 degrees right now at home and we’re coming back to 30-degree weather. It’s a big difference. It’s cold.”
Unfortunately for the Cougars, Southwestern sophomore Marquealis Edwards was hot in the second half. He scored five points during the Spartans’ 11-2 run and 18 of his game-high 27 points in the second half.
Clinton closed the gap to 49-44 with eight minutes to play after Xzavion Jones scored five consecutive points. Jones, who scored a team-high 18, drilled a 3-pointer and made a pair of free throws.
Southwestern’s Patrick Wright, a former Davenport West prep, and Clinton’s BJ Bostic traded baskets to keep the Cougars within five, but Southwestern had an answer. Devin Kastrup made a layup and Edwards drilled a 3-pointer to push the lead back to 10.
“When you’re playing from behind all the time, you expend a lot of energy,” Clinton coach Joe Shovlain said. “It’s a game of spurts, especially the way we play. We’re up-and-down the floor and they slow the ball down.”
Clinton got layups on its next two possessions and Southwestern answered with 3-pointers from Delby Halcomb each time.
A three-point play by Pemberton brought Clinton to within seven with a minute to play, but the Cougars were unable to mount a final comeback.
“I think we were a little rusty,” Shovlain said. “That was our first game since Dec. 15. We’re pretty rusty. We didn’t run some of our sets as crisply as we need to. We just didn’t execute offensively.
“It’s such a long break. That’s almost a month without a game. I mean, no excuses, they beat us. I think they’ve played a couple since the break. They executed better than we did. We didn’t execute the way we had been prior to Christmas. ... We’ve just got to get playing again.”
The first half was a back-and-forth affair. The Cougars scored the first five points on a Jones 3-pointer and a fastbreak layup by Richard Hurt. Southwestern countered that by scoring nine of the next 10 points.
The Spartans stretched their lead to three, but James Randolph made a layup to cut the deficit to 24-23.
Southwestern and Clinton then traded misses, with the Cougars’ miss leading to a fastbreak attempt for Southwestern.
Wright was leading the pack and seemed set for an easy layin. But Pemberton blocked the layup from behind and his momentum carried him to the stage beyond the baseline. Wright grabbed the offensive rebound and went up for another layup, which Pemberton blocked out of bounds. He had five of his six blocked shots in the first half.
“I saw he had an open lane and I had to stop him,” Pemberton said. “It was a bucket I had to stop. I ran down, I blocked the shot. Then he got it again and I figured I’d try to block him again. It’s just a hustle play.”
Southwestern eventually scored on that possession. Clinton countered with a 3-pointer by Jones and a layup by Randolph to take a 28-26 lead. Wright made a jumper at the buzzer, though, to send the teams into halftime tied.
Shovlain said his team had work to do, but he sees success on the horizon.
“We’re going to come back and work on execution in practice,” he said. “First, we’re going to review the tape and see the things we need to do differently offensively. We got the ball where we wanted it at different times, but we didn’t execute after the ball got there. We stagnated. They’d double-team the post and we didn’t run the last half of the play, which I think would have gotten us some wide open looks.”
SOUTHWESTERN COMMUNITY COLLEGE 70, CLINTON COMMUNITY COLLEGE 62
SOUTHWESTERN — Marquealis Edwards 10 5-6 27, Patrick Wright 5 3-5 13, Delby Halcomb 3 2-2 10, Devin Kastrup 5 2-2 12, Jack Harrison 1 0-0 2, Larry Mason 0 0-0 0, Marcus Littleton 1 0-0 2, Jared Theis 2 0-0 4. Totals 27 12-15 70.
CLINTON — Virshaun Grant 2 0-0 4, Richard Hurt 3 1-2 7, Xzavion Jones 5 5-7 18, James Randolph 3 0-3 6, Charles Pemberton 5 2-3 12, Kimani Stevens 4 2-3 10, BJ Bostic 2 0-0 5, Dane Barun 0 0-0 0. Totals 24 10-18 62.
Halftime score — Southwestern 28, Clinton 28. 3-point goals — Southwestern 4 (Edwards 2, Halcomb 2); Clinton 4 (Jones 3, Bostic). Total fouls — Southwestern 18; Clinton 13. Fouled out — none. Technical foul — Clinton bench. Rebounds — Southwestern 42 (Edwards 13, Harrison 7); Clinton 38 (Stevens 8, Pemberton 7). Blocks — Southwestern 4 (Harrison 2); Clinton 9 (Pemberton 6). Turnovers — Southwestern 8; Clinton 9.