by Philip Dowden
A gritty defensive effort saw the Evangel men’s basketball team hold off Baker 84-77 Monday night in Heart of America Athletic Conference action.
A hot pace in the first half saw both teams shoot near 50 percent from the field as Evangel pulled away for a 39-30 halftime lead.
The hot shooting continued for the Crusaders as Clark Brewington opened the period with a pair of three-pointers aiding an 8-0 run. The run saw Evangel extend its lead to 17 at 47-30 at the 17:46 mark. However, Baker answered with a 16-5 run to pull within six near the midpoint of the half before an Ike Egwu dunk made it 54-46.
The Wildcats continued their rally pulling within one at 61-60 with 7:11 left in the game, but never managed to take the lead from the Crusaders.
“Defense was the difference in tonight’s game,” said head coach Steve Jenkins. “They’re hard to guard and physical every possession, but it was our guys busting it to not allow it to keep spinning on us.”
Josh Pritchett stopped the run with a reverse layup at 6:06 to put Evangel back up by three. Sophomore Cade Coffman would follow a few minutes later with a three-pointer to push the Crusader lead back to 10. Coffman paced Evangel with 21 points on 4 of 6 from behind the arc and added six boards.
“We have to do a better job shooting free throws, but our guys did a good job locking down and grinding,” Jenkins added.
The Crusaders got late free throws from Nate Davis who finished with 10 points and Pritchett who added 17 off the bench. Edriel Martinborough and Brewington also finished in double figures with 18 and 11 respectively.
“It doesn’t show in the box score, but our bench played a huge part in tonight’s win,” said Jenkins. “Those guys had a good week of practice. Tonight, was a team win and you can see us keep getting better. Chris was another who is fighting back and gave us some really good minutes too.
“Our guys wanted to win. We are learning about the hard work that goes into winning, and everyone buying in.”
Baker was led by 23 points from Brandon Clifford, while Xavier Elam added 11 points off the bench.
Evangel quickly returns to action on Wednesday against Baptist Bible College in the second meeting this season between the two schools. Tipoff from the Ashcroft Center is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.