The Ecclesia Royals (14-5) entered tonight's match-up against Crowley's Ridge College (11-10) on a 6-game winning streak, but a slow start would hamper the team the remainder of the game and bring the streak to an end.
The Pioneers of Crowley's Ridge came out firing on all cylinders and seemed to catch the Royals off guard. The Royals entered the match-up 9-1 at home on the year and have started games very strong all year.
"Definitely not the way you want to start a game. I'm not sure if we took them for granted or if Crowley's Ridge just wanted it more. They were the better team tonight from start to finish. I thought we gave up a really good opportunity today unfortunately."
"They've got some tough players and I think we have gotten used to really getting after teams despite not playing all that well. Teams in our region are not going to let us do that, we've got to prepare better and that one is on me. Won't happen again."
The Royals are one of the top offensive teams in terms of points per game (87.1) and field goal percentage (49%), while also being one of the best defensive teams in NCCAA Division 1 as well, holding teams to 42% scoring and a remarkable 29% from three. Unfortunately the Pioneers did not take note and shot 56% for the game while the Royals could not crack 40% for themselves. The Pioneers owned the paint en route to winning the battle on the boards 46-39. The Royals lead the entire nation in rebounds per game at 46.1.
"To be quite honest, we did not do much of anything right the first half except close the final three minutes with at least some energy. The second half we got back to what we do well and that's why we saw a 20-point lead drop to 4 points with 4:00 remaining."
"We fought in the second half but they had some guys step up and make big plays. As well as we played the final 12:00 of that game, we dug ourselves such a hole, Crowley's Ridge was going to have to make some big mistakes down the line for us to take it, and that's something they did not do.
"I am proud of the way we closed the game, we fought, and that's something I've preached since I arrived, that we are not going down without a fight. I thought we had some very uncharacteristic issues to start the game, things we will address, and I know for a fact the guys will be disappointed with as well. We will bounce back."
The Royals were led in scoring by freshmen David Gaut Jr who had 20 points, 3 rebounds, and 4 assists. Freshmen Jamarius Graves had 16 points and 6 rebounds, while senior Wesley Bradford has 11 points and 7 rebounds. Junior Austin Burroughs rounded out the double-figure scorers with 10 points.
The Royals will face another in-state and Central Region rival, Central Baptist on the road Tuesday.