MBB Go 1-1 On Opening Weekend
In the second annual Champion Classic, your Champion Christian College Tigers were able to split their games this weekend to start the year 1-1. Champion was inches way from defeating NAIA opponent Arkansas Baptist College in their first matchup of the weekend, falling 76-74 on Friday. On Saturday, the Tigers were able to come away with the win against Rival NCCAA D1 Ecclesia College, but it took an extra 5 minutes of overtime to do so. With a 76-65 win, the Tigers now look ahead to a daunting stretch of 5 straight NCAA D1 games over the next 14 days.
The first half of Fridays match against Arkansas Baptist College was a defensive showdown for the Tigers. The Tigers locked in on defense, and held the Buffalos to just 29 points in the first half. The Tigers were led by Damian Bohlman in the first half, scoring all 7 of his points for the game in the first half. Champion didn't shoot the ball well, making just 38% of their shots and 24% of their 3's, but the defense kept them in it.
The second half, the Tigers struggled to find their footing playing against a tough zone defense by ABC. Going on a 12-0 run, the Tigers really struggled to get any offense going and their zone was forcing turnovers left and right. Falling behind by 5, Champion started to get their offense going, hitting open shots and forcing turnovers to get layups on the other end. With 3 minutes left, the Buffalos stretched the lead to 5. The lead was too much to overcome late, even with some late game heroics by KJ Corder and AJ Williams. With 4 seconds left, Jason Garcia got a tough look late for the win, but was a little short, and the Tigers fell by 2.
In the second game of the Champion Classic, the Tigers took on their in state rival Ecclesia College Royals. Playing against Coach Hatfield's former team, this game meant a lot to CCC and it showed from the jump. Champion held the lead for 15 of the first 20 minutes of the game, despite frigid shooting throughout the half (29% from the field, and 25% for 3). Champion defense is what kept the game close, allowing just 24 points in the first half.
To start the second half, Ecclesia College went with the same strategy as Arkansas Baptist College, going to a zone defense, and much like the first game the Tigers struggled on the offensive end. After trading buckets back and forth, the Royals went on a big run to stretch the lead to 10 with 8 minutes remaining. Champion answered back with a 12-0 run as AJ Williams and Jason Garcia trading big play after big play to bring the team back in the game. Over the last 3 minutes, Champion and Ecclesia traded buckets, and with a chance to win Ecclesia missed a wide open shot to win the game, giving us 5 additional minutes of free basketball.
In Overtime, the Tigers looked poised and in charge of the game from the tip, dominating the last 5 minutes. Braylon Hawkins took over the game, getting easy buckets at the basket giving Champion Christian the lead. After a couple made free throws, and some INCREDIBLE dunks by Xavier Hall, the Tigers walked away with 76-65 win.
Next up for the Tigers: Tuesday, November 1st at University of Central Arkansas (Exh.) on ESPN+