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Aggies Defeated in Close Contests with Southwestern Christian

Released by Panhandle State Sports Information on 01/11/2019 Rylee Higgins photo Rylee Higgins photo

Bethany, Okla.—The Panhandle State men's and women's basketball teams took tough conference losses on the road Thursday evening as they each faced the Southwestern Christian University Eagles in Bethany.

The Aggie women fell two points short of victory (62-61) in their matchup, after owning a one-point lead at halftime (38-37). A stagnant return from the break by the Aggies gave the Eagles an edge to shift the momentum in their favor, as they outscored their opponents 19-8 in the third period to take a ten-point turn going into the fourth (46-36).

Down by as much as 13, the Aggies started to gain ground in the final eight minutes of play as senior Taylor Acosta and junior Addison Munsch combined for 13 straight points to pull Panhandle into a one-point advantage (52-51) at the five-minute mark. SCU struck back and edged four points ahead (58-54) with 2:34 showing on the clock. A long shot by Acosta, good for three, gave the Aggies a one-point lead with a minute remaining, but a foul put the Eagles at the line where they made both free throw attempts, reclaiming advantage (62-61). Time ticked down with neither team shifting the score.

Disappointed in his team's performance, Head Coach Victor Esparza disclosed, "We had too many bad stretches on offense and settled for jumpers instead of attacking the basket. We were out-rebounded (36-28) and out-worked. Those two things cannot happen on the road." He added, "The games we have lost, we have been out-rebounded. It's time to turn the page and get ready for a top-ten team at Oklahoma City."

Acosta and Munsch tallied 38 points as the only Aggies to bring in double digits. Acosta claimed a game-high with 22 points and Munsch matched SCU's top-scorer, Amy Tully, with 16 points. With six successful three-pointers in the game, Acosta also held the game-high for shots beyond the arc. Senior Hannah Faulks led the team in rebounds with eight. Nadia Hayes was the team's leading performer off the bench, totaling eight points, five rebounds, one block and one steal on the night. The Aggie women now hold an overall record of 8-5 and sit 4-3 in the Sooner Athletic Conference, tying them for a fifth place standing with Mid-America Christian (RV).

The men's team took on a 10-5 Eagle team that is currently tied for third place in the SAC standings with a 5-2 record within the league. Holding a two-point lead early in the first half, the Aggies found themselves down by nine as the Eagles outscored them 14-3 over a seven-minute span. Panhandle battled by to claim a one-point advantage (26-25) with two minutes left in the first period and went one to own a 31-25 lead at the break, thanks to consecutive shots by junior Jaedon Whitfield.

The Aggies pulled ahead by eight points (35-27) in the opening minutes of the second half, and maintained a narrow lead through the nine-minute mark (51-50). The Aggies went on to miss eight of their next ten shots from the field, including six off-target from long distance. They went 2-of-7 at the line and were out-rebounded 13-7 in the final eight minutes of play. With the loss the Aggies own a 7-6 record on the season and are 2-5 in conference play.

For the game, the Aggies were outmatched at the boards 43-26 and out-scored off the bench 26-2. Alan Hodge, Jr. led the team in scoring with 15 points followed by Breiman Alexander with 13. Fellow starters Khallid Edwards and Jaedon Whitfield tallied 11 and ten points respectively. Leading the team in rebounds were Whitfield (6) and Baris Ulker (5) who brought down a combined 11 boards. Hodge and Edwards shared the game-high for assists with four apiece and sophomore DK Sumo led the game in steals with three.

Head Coach Aaron Coombs expounded, "I'm incredibly proud of my team for the level of fight we had last night. I feel like Southwestern Christian plays the hardest in the league and we matched them for 40 minutes." He elaborated further stating, "The tough part to swallow is we just didn't make enough plays down the stretch to win. Going 9-18 from the free-throw line is foreign to us. It's something that definitely impacted the game, but also something that I truly believe won't be an issue again this year. I would put my guys up against any team in the league when it comes to the free-throw line."

Coombs continued, "I thought we executed the game plan very well. We had a couple of breakdowns, but in this league, if we can hold our opponent to 64 points, we are going to win most of those games. I do want to give SCU a lot of credit. I thought they defended us very well and did a lot of things to keep us from establishing any rhythm. They are a very well-coached team and play harder than every team in this league."

Both Aggie teams face nationally ranked opponents this weekend with a double-header matchup at Oklahoma City University on Saturday, Jan. 12. The women will meet with a No. 10 Stars team that sits second in conference standings; tip-off set for 2 p.m. The men's team tips off at 4 p.m. against a 12th-ranked team. Live stats and video streaming will be available online at opsuaggies.com.