Crusaders

UMHB’s Demarius Cress (left) is closely guarded by Louisiana College’s Jacquez Coleman on Thursday night.

Michael Miller

BELTON — It’s difficult to say that Mary Hardin-Baylor does one particular thing extremely well to fuel its success, but the Crusaders do enough things well enough to give themselves a chance to win.

And for right now, that’s good enough.

UMHB constructed a 13-1 run late in the second half to regain the lead and stayed in control the rest of the way, putting away Louisiana College 91-85 on Thursday night at Mayborn Campus Center.

It was the sixth victory in the last seven outings for the Crusaders (10-4, 3-3 American Southwest Conference), who finish a four-game homestand Saturday afternoon against Belhaven.

“We’re moving the ball a lot better on offense than we were earlier in the season,” said UMHB senior wing Aubrie King, who was 5-of-7 from 3-point range for his 15 points. “That has a lot to do with it, and we’re playing better defense than we were early on.”

The Wildcats (2-8, 0-5) hit on all cylinders for the first 33 minutes and held a 76-71 lead with 6:38 remaining before the Crusaders took over for good.

Justin Gammill’s reverse layup, LaKendric Hyson’s driving bucket and Demarius Cress’ lay-in as part of a three-point play jumpstarted UMHB’s game-changing surge.

“I tell them, ‘Go to the hole. Go to the hole. Go to the hole.’ I don’t know what else I can tell them. We got in an offense that created gaps for us to drive, and we still wanted to shoot threes for a while,” Crusaders coach Ken DeWeese said. “You don’t drive to the basket every time, but you have to look for it. And if (the defender) is backed off, then you have a jump shot. It’s fairly simple.”

The penetration opened things up on the perimeter, where King buried back-to-back 3s to cap the run and put UMHB ahead 84-77 with 3:15 left.

LC never got closer than three points down the stretch.

“During a game, momentum goes back and forth,” King said. “We got down by six with about nine minutes left, but we did a good job answering. Once we got the lead toward the end, we knew we were going to hold on to it.”

Devon Washington, a 6-foot-9 junior forward, powered the Wildcats with 26 points and 16 rebounds but scored only nine after halftime. Taylan Grogan added 17 points and fellow guard Lashard Powell finished with 13.

“(Washington) did some things that we weren’t expecting him to do in the first half, so we defended him differently in the second half and he wasn’t as effective,” said DeWeese, whose team held a 47-46 lead at intermission.

Hyson had a team-high 20 points for UMHB, which got 19 from Cress, 12 from Gammill and 11 from Sam Moore.

The Crusaders will aim for their fourth straight win coming out of the Christmas break when they host Belhaven on Saturday. Then they have consecutive contests in Abilene against Hardin-Simmons and McMurry before returning to Mayborn Campus Center for a five-game stretch that starts Jan. 20.

“(Belhaven) is really athletic and if they’re shooting it well, they can beat you. They’re wild, and you just don’t know what you’re going to get from them,” DeWeese said. “It will be interesting to see how our guys handle it.”

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