An opportunity for first place was on the line Thursday, Jan. 23, as Webster University men’s basketball team took on the reigning SLIAC champion, Spalding University. A game full of runs by each team came down to a pair of free throws from Webster’s Senior Guard Hollis Edwards.
“I knew I would make them once I had the ball in my hands, and I knocked them down,” Edwards said.
Edwards converted two free throws with 7.2 seconds left in the game to win the game for the Gorloks by the score of 58-57.
Grants Gymnasium was packed for both Webster men’s and women’s basketball games.
Spalding’s senior guard Thomas Blakemore led the way in scoring for the Golden Eagles with 15 points. The Golden Eagles from Kentucky shot 60 percent from beyond the three point line in the second half to help them go up by ten with just under four minutes left. Spalding’s junior guard Brandon Gabriel went 4-4 from the three-point line, including hitting three consecutive three pointers in three consecutive offensive possessions. Gabriel’s last three-pointer with 4:46 left in the game, were the last points Spalding would score.
“We didn’t focus anything else but defense. We kept saying, one more stop, get a stop and make a play,” said Webster’s junior Guard Ahmad Smith.
It seemed like that is exactly what they drew up; in those last four minutes Spalding did not score another point. Spalding ended the game missing its last six shots and turning the ball over three times.
Down 56-57 with just 18 seconds left, Webster’s full court defense looked stretched. Spalding’s Senior forward, William Barber received a pass in the lane and looked to lay the ball up and in to be maybe the back breaker for Webster. Sophomore guard Hunter Ward came from behind to block Blakemore’s shot.
“I came out of no where, tried to get up there as high as I could, make something happen,” Ward said.
In the following possession, down by one with 18 seconds left in the game, Webster’s Smith missed a mid range jumper, but a defensive rebounding foul was called on Spalding’s Gabriel. Senior Forward Jarrod Huskey was the Gorlok fouled, but was unable to shoot the free throws due to a wrist injury he suffered on the play.
Hollis Edwards was the Gorlok picked to shoot the critical free throws in place for Huskey.
“I said to myself, he’s going to pick me. I looked at him. He looked at me. I said okay, I’m going to hit these two free throws and win the game,” Edwards said.
Edwards says he practices free throws everyday at practice. “Coach (Head Coach Bunch) makes me hit fifty free throws a day.”
With 7.2 seconds left, Spalding frantically rushed the ball up the court in hope of a game winning basket. Webster’s defense would not allow them into the lane, as Spalding’s Thomas Blakemore missed a desperation three-pointer attempt as time expired.
Sophomore Forward Kevin Miller led the way for the Gorloks with twenty points, nine rebounds, and four blocks.
Unfortunately for Webster, they might of lost two big pieces in junior forward Aaron Griffin and Jarrod Huskey due to injury. Griffin left the game with minutes left in the game and did not return. Huskey landed hard on his wrist during the play in which he was fouled, sending Edwards to the line in his place to shoot the game winning free throws.
Webster struggled with its shooting in the first half. Webster shot 46.2 percent, going 12-26 from the field in the first half. Webster went without a point in the first half for almost four minutes, allowing Spalding to go on a 12-0 run to take the lead.
Webster continued to struggle in the second half, shooting 34.5 percent. Ward said the defense was the key in the second half.
“We never gave up. Through all the dry spots in the game, we kept that gritty defense mentality we had,” Ward said.
With the win, Webster goes to 10-5 on the season and 7-1 in conference. The Gorloks travel to MacMurray Saturday to play the team Webster is tied with in the standings for second.
Ahmad Smith says the teams feels good about Saturday’s game after a big win against Spalding.
“We are feeling very confident, but we know we still have a lot to improve on,” Smith said.
Spalding falls to 10-6 and suffers their first loss in conference play. Spalding’s next game is Saturday afternoon, as they try to rebound against a struggling Blackburn team.