Mens Basketball

Champion MBB Goes 2-1 During Christmas Trip

Hot Springs,

Champion Christian College men and women's basketball teams left Monday morning to embark on a 4-day, 1500 mile, 3 game trip, travelling through 5 states. A daunting task for any program, Champion was able to finish the trip 2-1, defeating defending National Champion Campbellsville Harrodsburg, #4 ranked Kansas Christian, and falling to a talented 7-3 Welch College team. 

GAME 1: The first game was against the Welch College Flames. Like mentioned earlier, Welch came into the game with a 6-1 record, and Champion seemed a little sluggish to start the game after an 8-hour bus ride. The first half started with a real back and forth for the first 5 minutes, only for the Flames to bust the game open with a 15-2 run. With the lead 35-18 with 5 minutes left in the half, Damian Bohlman and Xavier Hall combined for the teams next 10 points, and a late 3 by Taz Glover cut the lead to just 5 going into the half. At the end of one period, the Tigers trailed 43-38.

The second half looked like a new Champion team offensively. AJ Williams, Xavier Hall, and Braylon Hawkins combined for 45 of the teams 50 points in the half. It was a very back and forth contest, with AJ and Xavier hitting some big-time 3's. Champion Christian even took a 4-point lead with 9 minutes left, but they could not get the stops they needed to win. Welch ended the game shooting 57% from the field and 44% for 3, numbers way too high if the Tigers want to compete for a National Tournament. In the end, Champion fell 95-88, bringing their record to 2-2.

After the game, the players and the coaches had to do some real soul searching. A team with post season aspirations, losing was not part of the plan, and with 2 games left on the trip, the Tigers have to make a decision: Lock in, or pack it up and go to break a few days early.

GAME 2: The next game on the trip for Champion Christian College was against the defending National Champions, Campbellsville Harrodsburg University Pioneers. Campbellsville and Champion met last year in the first annual Champions Classic, when Champion pulled off what many considered to be a major upset. On a back-to-back game for both teams, neither team showed it early.

The team came into the game with a different mindset for this one, and from the tip off, it really showed. Defensively, it looked like a brand-new group. Running a full court press (much like the game against UVI), Champion was able to get the Pioneers out of their rhythm. Offensively, Braylon Hawkins took the challenge, scoring 11 of the team's first 18 points, jumping out to an early 18-10 lead. The rest of the half was a back-and-forth battle for the two powerhouse teams, but the Tigers kept the lead the entire half, never falling behind. Going into the second half, the Tigers held a 41-40 lead. Braylon Hawkins led the way with 20 of the teams 21.

A 1-point game with 20 minutes left, it was easy to see that neither team was going to back down and it was going to be a dog fight to the end. Campbellsville came out swinging first, going on a 7-0 run to take a quick 6-point lead. Even more unexpected was with 6 minutes in to the second half, Braylon Hawkins would cut his hand and require stitches, meaning he was done for the night. With Braylon out and the team finding themselves in a quick deficit, the Tigers could have folded, but next man up mentality was how the team reacted, as Josh Walpole and Malik Laurent combined for 10 points and 8 rebounds in the second half. The half was a game of runs, with Champion cutting into the lead, and then the Pioneers going on a run of their own. Luckily, the Tigers went on the last run to seal the deal. A full team effort (5 players scoring) led to a 10-2 run, and from there the Tigers just had to get the ball inbounds and make free throws, which they did. The game ended with Champion Christian taking the 78-75 win, moving to 3-2. The Tigers had 4 players score in double figures.

GAME 3: The Final game of the trip was against Kansas Christian College, a Southwest Regional opponent ranked #4th in the NCCAA. Another familiar foe for the Tigers, these two teams matched up twice last year, going 1-1 but losing in the regional tournament against Kansas Christian at their place. Kansas came into the game with a 6-2 record overall. 

After having a good amount of success pressing, the Tigers started with it again. Early on, Champion knew defense would be the deciding factor in this matchup. Kansas Christian has a team with extremely talent guards, so keeping them out the paint would be crucial. For the first 11 minutes of the game, both teams scored the ball well. With a score of 21-19, Kansas had a 2-point lead. That was the moment the Tigers went cold. Champion did not score for the next 7 minutes, and Kansas would build a 34-21 lead. Champion ended the half on a little run, outscoring the Falcons by 7, and would go into the half down 40-34.

Down 6 at half with no Braylon Hawkins and Xavier Hall in foul trouble, the odds were not in Champion Christian Colleges favor. When the second half got underway, Kansas came out firing, pushing the lead back up to 11. With 14 minutes left in the game, trailing 54-43, it looked like the game may get out of hand. But KJ Corder had other plans. Scoring 11 of the teams next 14 points in a span of 4 minutes, capped off by a 3 from Damian to take the lead 57-54. A 14-0 run got the Tigers right back where they wanted to be. After stretching the lead back up to 8, basketball then again proved to be a game of runs, as the score ended up being a tie game once again with 1 minute left. The play of the game came from Taz Glover, who ran the entire length of the floor after a turnover to block a fast break layup off the glass. When Champion got the ball back with 10 seconds left, and after a quick timeout, the Tigers had 1 chance to seal the deal. Out of the timeout, Jason Garcia inbounded the ball to KJ Corder. KJ attacked the basket but got cut off by his defender, but Jason Garcia didn't quit on the play, and sprinted to the basket to get the ball and get fouled with .5 seconds on the clock. After making the first free throw, Jason intentionally missed the second to give Kansas virtually no chance with a full court heave. The Tigers would walk away with a 76-75 win, with Jason Garcia getting the game winning free throws on his birthday. In Braylon Hawkins absence, Josh Walpole stepped up, playing 37 minutes and grabbing an incredible 15 rebounds with 8 points as well.

Champion goes into the short 10-day Christmas break with a 4-2 record, and a 2-1 record against the NCCAA D2. Next up for the Tigers will be December 28th, flying to Hawaii to play 2 exhibition games, while spending almost a full week in beautiful Honolulu.