The Sam Houston Bearkats can take the air out of a ball game pretty darn quick.
In the first quarterfinal at the Orleans Arena on Thursday, it took about five and a half minutes for that to happen.
The Bearkats held California Baptist without a point for over 10 minutes as part of a 19-0 run to take complete control in a 64-51 win to advance to Friday’s semifinals.
When CBU guard Blondeau Tchoukuiegno hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 14:23 left in the half, CBU led 8-7.
That was the last time the Lancers would lead.
Kian Scroggins hit a jumper to give Sam Houston a 9-8 lead and the rout was on.
Scroggins bucket started a 19-0 Bearkat run. Over the next 10-plus minutes, Sam Houston put the defensive clamps down. Along with the defense, the Bearkats got hot, especially from 3-point range. At least, Donte Powers did.
“It’s always hard to win that first game,” Sam Houston head coach Jason Hooten said. “That first game’s tough. I thought we had some nervousness out there although we tried to loosen them up…So we were tight a little bit, I thought early. But, I thought Donte really got us going when he made a couple of those 3’s and he saw that going in. He really carried us in that first half.”
Powers hit three straight 3-pointers to push the Bearkat lead to 14. Kaosi Ezeagu capped the run with a two-handed dunk to make it 26-8 with 4:02 left in the half.
Taran Armstrong’s 3-pointer broke the scoring drought to start a 9-2 CBU run.
However, Lamar Wilkerson and Javion May hit layups to give Sam Houston a 33-17 lead heading into halftime.
The Bearkats pushed their lead to 21 with 14:10 to play on Kian Scroggins’ scoop and score.
However, similar to what Sam Houston did to CBU in the first half, the Lancers did to the Bearkats midway through the second half.
CBU held Sam Houston without any points over nearly four minutes. And the Lancers took advantage. Reed Nottage’s dunk capped a 7-0 run to cut the deficit to 11 with 8:07 to play.
However, Donte Powers had a response with a step-back jumper to push the lead back to 16 with 5:07 to play.
That is when it became a free throw shooting contest. In the case of the Bearkats, it also became a struggle to make a field goal. That might be an understatement. Sam Houston did not make a field goal over the final five minutes of the ball game.
Joe Quintana’s step-back 3-pointer cut the Bearkat lead to eight with 1:52 to play.
But that was as close as CBU would get.
Sam Houston hit free throws down the stretch to seal the win. In fact, Damon Nicholas Jr. hit the biggest free throws of the game to push Sam Houston’s lead back to 11 right after Quintana’s 3-pointer.
“We’ve have a different guy drive the bus every game,” Hooten said. “That’s the beauty of this team. We’ve just have had so many guys step up. A great win for us. 25, you know we’ve got a goal we’ve had and that’s to win 27. So, we’ve got some work to do.”
Donte Powers finished with a game-high 21 points. Powers hit four 3-pointers, all of them in the first half. The Bearkats advance to face either Seattle U or Grand Canyon in Friday’s semifinals.
“We’ll have to play better tomorrow.”
Taran Armstrong was the only Lancer in double figures with 10 points. The Lancers finish the 2022-23 season at 17-16 overall.
“Proud of our guys,” CBU head coach Rick Croy said. “We set our goals high at the beginning of the season. Had great intent, focus and preparation tonight. We had to have our A game against Sam Houston. It hurts we weren’t able to do that.”