SPORTS >>Abundant Life takes two from Bigelow
Both Abundant Life teams took a break from conference action with a home stand against Bigelow on Tuesday night at the ALS gymnasium. The Owls dominated the finale with a 69-43 win that met the continuous clock for the final eight minutes, while the Lady Owls outlasted the Lady Panthers in a 51-48 thriller to start the evening.
The vibe in the ALS gym was much more casual than the previous night’s league game with Rose Bud. Gone was the pep band and packed stands, but the Owls’ focus and intensity had not wavered since the big rivalry of 24 hours before.
Nelson Boren put the Tim Ballard coached Owls on the board first with an inside shot assisted by Dane Lottner at the 7:39 mark, and Abundant Life never looked back. Bigelow did tie briefly at the 4:21 mark with a shot by Cody Johnson after the Owls went with subs.
The second unit spent almost as much time in the game as the starters for Abundant Life, and proved almost as effective.
Sophomore Cameron Slayton and junior Andrew Chandler served as suitable replacements for standout playmakers Lottner and Colby Woolverton, but the backup unit did not have the pure height that Boren and fellow post Garrett Southerland provided for the starting Owls.
Rebounding was the second team’s primary struggle against the Bigelow starting five, but a three-point shot from Chandler with 4:16 left in the first quarter broke the final tie to put the Owls up 9-6.
The starters came back into the game with 2:47 left in the first half, and Woolverton put himself in the scorers book for the first time all night with a three pointer that gave the Owls a 12-9 lead.
Abundant Life used its height advantage for more than just superior work on the boards. Boren and Southerland provided a wall for Lottner on a pair of three pointers from the left side. The two players side by side proved to be an unpenetratable screen against the Panthers, as Lottner took his time to set up the shot with no contesting to adjust to.
As an integral part of both the varsity rotation and jv team, it was senior forward Robert Perry that saw the most minutes on the floor for Abundant Life on Tuesday. Perry was in the mix defensively all night, and also found his way to the goal on a couple of occasions during the second half.
Perhaps the biggest crowd response of the night came long after the game had been decided, when the legend himself put up two for the Owls. Junior guard Tristan Williford came away with a put back basket at the 3:03 mark to the delight of the AL fans. The sentimental favorite also came up big on the defensive side with five rebounds in the fourth quarter.
Lottner led the Owls with 24 points, with 15 points from Woolverton. Kevin Martin finished with nine points for Abundant Life, while Williford finished with two points and five rebounds. For Bigelow, Cody Jackson led with nine points. The win improves the Owls’ record to 16-4 on the season.
The Lady Owls was far from a blowout. In fact, white-knuckler is a more fitting description for the 51-48 win Abundant Life took over the Lady Panthers in the closing seconds.
It took most of the game to recover from an early 20-10 deficit for the Lady Owls. Bigelow came out strong, hitting five three-point baskets in the opening quarter before the AL defense had time to adjust.
Things began to turn around for Abundant Life in the second half. After heading into the intermission trailing by six, the Lady Owls eventually tied Bigelow before the end of the third frame on their way to claiming a six-point lead mid-way through the fourth quarter.
The Lady Panthers did not fade without a fight, however. They stepped up their offense in the late going to take a two-point lead, but junior Brittany Sharp hit a three-point basket in the final minute to put Abundant Life back in the lead.
Hannah Pastor hit a pair of free throws to keep the Lady Owls out front by one in the final seconds. Bigelow fouled Sharp again in a last-ditch effort, but Sharp made a put-back shot after getting her own rebound off the missed free throws to set the final margin.
“We had a great second half,” Lady Owls coach Justin Mosely said. “They were on fire in the first half; we weren’t defending them like we should have been. They also have a good post player that’s hard to defend. We were able to tie things up in the third quarter and finish out strong.”
Pastor led the Lady Owls with 21 points, with 20 points from Sharp. Candace Eudy rounded out high scorers for Abundant Life with eight points. For Bigelow, Whitney Hood led all scorers with 22 points. The win improves the Lady Owls’ record to 7-13 on the season.