BELTON — Mary Hardin-Baylor and Concordia Texas have developed quite a rivalry on the hardwood. In an on-going series known for high-scoring affairs separated by slim margins, Saturday afternoon’s latest installment lived up to its predecessors.
UMHB got double-digit point production from six players and went 34-of-45 from the free throw line, keeping its composure in the face of Concordia’s full-court pressure to carve out a 102-98 victory at Mayborn Campus Center.
There were 12 lead changes and three ties in a game that looked a whole lot like most of the previous between two universities separated by only 58 miles. Since the start of the 2012-13 season — the year the Crusaders advanced to the national championship game — UMHB holds a 7-5 edge over a 12-game stretch in which the average margin for the victor is only six points.
“When we play them, the game changes every third possession. There’s never four possessions in a row that are similar. By the fourth possession, the flow of the game has changed and it might have changed twice,” said Crusaders coach Ken DeWeese, whose team won for the sixth time in its last seven games.
UMHB (13-5, 6-4 American Southwest Conference) opened an early 14-point advantage that had been whittled to four by halftime, and it was game on from there.
The lead changed hands seven times in the first 5 minutes of the second half before the Tornados (12-5, 6-3) used a 9-2 spurt to go up by six with 14:22 remaining. Shaq Martin’s three-point play put the Crusaders back in front, and they were up 74-68 with 10 minutes to go.
“We went from down by six to up by six in four minutes,” DeWeese said. “It’s difficult for players to stay calm in games like that. It’s difficult for coaches and officials, too.”
Aubrie King’s jumper with 7:50 left gave UMHB an 11-point lead, but of course the margin didn’t last. Concordia got within four points three times in the final 2 minutes, before the Crusaders closed it out.
Martin, a junior forward out of Killeen Ellison who came in averaging only 4.9 points per game, produced his second straight 21-point outing for UMHB. He was 8-of-12 from the field, including three 3s.
“I’m just trying to produce the same kind of numbers each night,” said Martin, who also had 21 in last Saturday’s 101-60 win at McMurry. “I’m trying to give my team a boost.”
Demarius Cress had 18 points, LaKendric Hyson 13, King and Brian Long 12 apiece, and Braden Hammond 11 for the Crusaders, who shot 48 percent (30-of-62) from the floor.
Junior guard Ephriam Price poured in a game-high 34 points — 17 more than his average — and Joe Neal added 29 for the Tornados, who got no more than nine from anybody else.
The victory brought UMHB within a half-game of second-place Concordia in the ASC West Division and kept the Crusaders within three games of West leader Sul Ross State as they chase the division title and the right to host the conference tournament.
UMHB’s five-game homestand continues with a matchup Thursday against Howard Payne before first-place Sul Ross State comes to Mayborn Campus Center next Saturday.
“Keeping our intensity on defense and sharing the ball on offense have been a big emphasis, and we need to keep doing that,” Martin said. “Going into these next few games, we have our backs against the wall if we want to host the conference tournament instead going to Alpine or Austin.”