The College of Eastern Utah trailed early in their game against Wallace State Community College (Ala.) on Thursday, March 18 before settling down to close the gap and pull away for an 82-66 win in the quarterfinals of the National Junior College Athletic Association basketball championships in Hutchinson, Kan.
The victory is the second straight for the Eagles in the series and puts the squad in the national semifinals where they will play the winner of the Howard/Walters State contest currently underway.
After leading by 21 in the second half the Eagles allowed the Lions to pull it to 12 more than once as they fought off Wallace. Fouls played a huge role in the game giving the Eagles 22 points from the charity line. Jonathan Mills led the Eagles with a game-high 19 points, while teammate Michael Glover poured in 16.
The first half started slow for the Eagles, trailing early by seven at one point, the squad managed to rally and pull it back. The offense struggled for the first 10 minutes of the game. Once the team started playing together, much of that due to Mills' performance, they shortened the lead and finally tied at 16 with eight minutes left in the first half. Mills led the team with points and rebounds in the first half. Early in the game the Lions were using man to man defense that kept the Eagles off-guard but did not allow the Lions to dominate rebounds. Rebounding aided the Eagles in gaining, maintaining and the finally lengthening their lead.
The score was close until the last five minutes of the first half when CEU took off. Wallace State's L.A. Farmer hit several three-pointers to keep them close but the momentum shifted as he started missing his shots. The defense never picked up the slack as the Eagles ran away with the game. Fouls played a big roll in the Eagles keeping ahead of the Lions. The Eagles shot just over 50 percent from the line going 9-16 in the first half. Jonathan Mills led the way scoring with 13 points. Farmer led the way with 10 points for the Lions after hitting two three-pointers.
Second half play started with CEU dominated every aspect of the game. The Eagles stepped up their offense forcing the Lions to step up their game. Eastern Utah played a hurry up offense which started to cause problems for the Eagles. Once they settled down and started using the clock effectively they rallied to maintain the lead. Crowe led the charge to close the gap. He started to light up the score board from beyond the arc.
CEU needed to adjust their defense to cope with the drop back shot. With 13 minutes remaining in the game Darrin Williams received an intentional foul for hitting Mills under the basket. CEU controlled the tempo for the majority of the second half but Coach Chris Craig reminded his team to keep their foot on the gas pedal. Staying aggressive and focused also were points mentioned by the coach. The Lions never let up on defense and were quick to get rebounds and take advantage of the Eagle errors.