by Ed Beach
It took overtime, but the 25th ranked Drury Panthers earned a split of their two games in the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic with a 94-92 win over Pittsburg State on Sunday at South Point Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
With less than a minute remaining in overtime, Gorillas guard AJ Walker scored on a lay-up to put Pittsburg State ahead by one, 92-91. Drury answered with Conley Garrison’s drive to the basket with 35 seconds left that put the Panthers back in front, 93-92.
Pittsburg State’s Dejon Waters missed a three-point attempt with the shot clock winding down, Cal Hartley grabbed the rebound for Drury and was promptly fouled with 4.8 seconds left. Hartley made one of his two free throw attempts, and Pitt State, out of time outs, had their desperation shot fall short, giving the Panthers the win.
“I’m glad we fought and overcame some adversity,” said Drury head coach Steve Hesser. “We made it a shooting game and got rolling with the three-ball midway through the second half, but we weren’t guarding anybody. In the second half, they shot 64 percent, and we shot 44 percent, and that’s how an 11-point lead at halftime goes away.
“But I’m proud of the way we came back, and now we’ll take some time off, then come back and re-group and reevaluate some things before getting back into the Thursday-Saturday routine of our conference schedule.”
The Panthers were in front 53-42 at the half after hitting 20 of their 32 shots in the first 20 minutes. Drury was also 10 for 15 from three-point range in the half, but the Gorillas chipped away and grabbed their first lead since the game’s opening moments taking an 80-79 lead with 5:28 left.
Both teams would trade baskets and leads down the stretch, and the Panthers had a chance to win at the end of regulation. With the score tied at 87-87, Drury had the ball with 16 seconds remaining but had the ball knocked loose as time expired, forcing overtime.
Brandon Emmert gave the Panthers four of his 15 points in the OT period, and Garrison’s lay-up had him finish with a team-high 21 points. Garrison nearly had a triple-double as he added 10 assists and eight rebounds. Cal Hartley added 19 points, Isaac Johnson chipped in with 12, and Niekie Thomas had nine points to go with 11 rebounds.
Jah-Kobe Womack led Pittsburg State with 27 points while Walker finished with 19 points, and Christian Edmundson added 16.
Drury owned a 36-27 advantage in rebounding, including a 13-4 edge on the offensive glass.