by Joel Gray
Camden, AR—Shaddock Fieldhouse was the happy site of punch and cake and college memorabilia as SAU Tech celebrated its 50th birthday with a homecoming night of basketball. Their guests from Wesson, MS, however—the Copiah-Lincoln Community College Wolves—showed up to shut down the “feel-good” in the fieldhouse.
The NJCAA Division-II Rockets, in their inaugural season on the court, have battled through a brutal schedule, thus far—all Division-I opponents for the women; and nearly the same for the men. So for homecoming, one might expect to see a Prep team on the schedule, for perhaps an easy win, right? Well, not at SAU Tech. Copiah-Lincoln is another Division-I junior college, and nothing about these homecoming games was going to be easy for the Rockets.
The Lady Wolfpack came in undefeated at 6-0 and wasted no time in proving to the Rockets’ fans why that was so. They were big and strong and fast and asserted themselves from the outset. The Lady Rockets had difficulty rebounding against the Wolves, providing the visitors with multiple opportunities underneath the basket. Also, the quickness of Copiah-Lincoln was quickly realized, but not-so-quickly countered, as they continued to steal and intercept the ball throughout the contest.
The 5-1 Rockets were only trailing by 7 points at the end of the first quarter, but the Wolves stretched that to 18 by the half, then 27 by the end of the third. If there was a bright spot for the Lady Rockets at all, it was that they continued to fight, managing to outscore the Wolfpack in the fourth quarter 25-24. Nevertheless, the outcome was never really in question, and the Copiah-Lincoln ladies improved to 7-0 with the 103-77 victory over Tech.
The Lady Wolves had four players score in double-digits, with TaMara Riley leading the way with 20. They also had three players with multiple 3-pointers—Azaria Magee had three. The Lady Rockets had three players in double-digits—Devena Smith with 26, Hagger Caldwell with 11, and Alex Parris with 11. Only McKenna Christler could sink from 3-point range, but she only managed to hit twice for 6 points.
It was a tough night for the SAU Tech women, as they suffered their 2nd loss in a row, falling to 5-2 on the season. Next for the Lady Rockets is another Division-I opponent, on the road, Sat., Dec. 1st, when they take on the 2-5 Holmes Community College Bulldogs.
As tilted as the court seemed to be during the women’s game, the balance was restored when the men took the floor. The Copiah-Lincoln men came in at 6-1, having only lost their season-opener, and they, too, proved to be big and strong and fast. The Wolves established early that lobbed passes would be promptly picked-off. But the 6-4 Rockets were ready for the challenge and played their usual style of fast and physical basketball. Immanuel Anderson’s multiple slam-dunks helped to keep the Rocket crowd roaring, and at halftime, Tech had a 1-point lead at 39-38.
The second half saw more of the same. Each team had had short runs of 6-8 points in the game, but now it was toe-to-toe and point-to-point. With the homecoming audience on their feet, it was the Rockets’ Immanuel Anderson with a last-second layup to tie the game at 79 and send it into overtime.In the additional 5 minutes, however, it was a devastating 3-pointer from the Wolves’ Miles Daniels that helped to provide a margin the Rocket men couldn’t overcome, and Copiah-Lincoln held on to get the win by the score of 91-87.
The Wolfpack improved to 7-1 with four players shooting in the double-digits. Damarius Brooks led the way with 16. They also had four with multiple 3-pointers, Miles Daniels leading the way with three—including that crucial one in overtime. The Rockets also had four players score in the double-digits: Immanuel Anderson with 23— including three slam-dunks—Sheldon Steven with 20, Mike McAllister Boatright with 17, and Malik Miller with 16. Only two Rocket men, however, could fire true from 3-point range. Sheldon Steven was accurate for four 3-pointers, and Malik Miller added one more.
It was an outstanding effort, particularly in the second half, where the Rockets had proven to have some trouble in previous games; nevertheless, it goes in the loss column. The Tech men are now 6-5, with all of their losses coming against Division-I teams. It is expected that the brutality of their early schedule will be of great benefit when Division-II divisional play begins in January.
Meanwhile, however, it doesn’t get any easier for the Rockets’ men’s team. Next—Sat., Dec. 1st—they join the Lady Rockets in Goodman, MS to take on the 5-2 Division-I Holmes CC Bulldogs. The only team to have beaten Copiah-Lincoln this season. The #13 team in the nation.