For about 60 percent of its season opener Monday, the Lewis-Clark State men’s basketball team felt relatively uncomfortable. In fact, the Warriors probably worked harder than they anticipated against the Yellowstone Christian Centurions.
LCSC was a bit short-handed, playing the game without All-American guard Dameek Mitchell, and was fit to be tied despite leading 51-38 with 15:15 remaining in the second half. However, the Warriors’ defense took charge, allowing just nine points the rest of the way in a 94-47 victory before 419 fans at the Activity Center.
The Lewis-Clark State women got an easy 105-42 victory against Yellowstone Christian as six players scored in double figures.
“I think we played hard for 40 minutes, but one of the things we talked to our guys at halftime is we were trying to hit too many home runs,” LCSC second-year coach Austin Johnson said. “We talked about steady and being consistent possession after possession, and our guys did a much better job of that, especially in the second half.”
It definitely was a good test out of the gate for the Warriors, who hit 55 percent of their shots in the game and 50 percent from behind the arc. But the Centurions (0-2) kept punching and punching until early in the second half, when they eventually were worn down by LCSC’s stifling defense.
Yellowstone Christian hit just three second-half field goals and turned the ball over 21 times in the contest.
Mitchell had to sit this contest out after committing a flagrant foul in LCSC’s national semifinal game against Carroll. Two other players were out with injuries, and redshirt freshman forward Anthony Sprauer went down at the 14:30 mark of the second half with a lower-body injury.
Josiah Westbrook led five Warrior players in double figures with 16 points. Travis Yenor added 13 points, Jaxon Hughes contributed 11, and Jake Albright and Daylon Potts each finished with 10 points and nine rebounds for the NAIA semifinalist in 2018-19.
Devin Jones had a game-high 17 points and added six rebounds for the Centurions. Derrian Reed chipped in with 16 points.
“We knew that their top four or five guys could really play,” Johnson said. “We knew it was going to be a test.”
LCSC looked like it was going to deliver a knockout blow in the first half, but Yellowstone Christian kept hanging around, getting it to within three at 26-23 with 5:37 left.
The Warriors then got five points from Westbrook in a 15-5 spurt toward the end of the half and eventually took a 43-31 lead into the locker room.
While the LCSC lead never got below that point again, the Warriors still couldn’t swat away the Centurions until the defense took charge in the final 15 minutes of the game, when they went on a 43-9 run to finish it.
“When it was a tight game, our guys could have easily freaked out and not handled things the right way,” Johnson said. “But our guys did a great job of handling things the right way.
“It was all 11 guys who suited up that had a positive impact.”
It definitely was not perfect, particularly with the Warriors committing 25 team fouls and 13 turnovers. But Johnson was able to use some different lineups, sometimes rotating five guys in at a time, to keep players fresh. No one played more than 23 minutes.
“There were a lot of good things to take away,” Johnson said. “Guys having to make good decisions and the right decisions when the game was still undecided.”
One of the nice things about having a game like this, particularly early in the season, is the ability to go deep into the bench. Coach Brian Orr was able to do that.
The Warriors used 12 players in this one, and all but one registered less than 20 minutes of court time.
That’s good to build up depth.
“For some of our girls that was their first college experience, so that was definitely a positive thing,” Orr said. “When you have that kind of point spread, certainly we want to play all the players that we can and get everybody involved.”
But Orr also said that’s the plan for early in the season anyway.
“We try to play players,” the 19th-year coach said, “when they step up and are capable of defending and rebounding. Then we think offensively, everybody is skilled enough. It’s just a matter of whether we can get it done on the defensive end of the floor.”
Offense wasn’t a problem in this one for LCSC. Kiara Burlage had a game-high 20 points and added six rebounds. Jamie Nielson contributed 16 points and Rachel Schroeder added 13. Jansen Edmiston finished with 12 points and eight rebounds, Hannah Burland had 11 points and Heidi Sellman tallied 10 points and a game-best 11 rebounds.
Gabby Worley and Hannah Hayes each had 14 points for the Centurions (0-2), who were held to just 22 percent from the field and were forced into 16 turnovers.
It could have been easy for the Warriors to cruise, especially after taking an 18-0 lead 6:10 into the game, and not allowing a field goal in the first 10:24 of the contest. LCSC scored 41 of the first 45 points and never looked back.
However, Orr was pleased his players did not lack in intensity for the duration.
“We stayed at a high level the whole time,” Orr said, “even though it’s hard to keep your energy level up, sometimes when you see a score that’s so lopsided. But I like the way our players kept competing the whole game. I thought we found the open players, we moved the ball, we shot the ball in rhythm. I like the way we communicated on defense, especially in the first half.”
YELLOWSTONE CHRISTIAN (0-2)
Jones 5-15 6-8 17, Pendley 1-4 1-3 4, Reed 3-10 9-11 16, King 3-8 0-0 7, Noble 0-0 0-2 0, Correa 0-3 1-2 1, Gonzalez 0-3 1-2 1, Smauldon 0-1 1-2 1. Totals 12-44 19-30 47.
LEWIS-CLARK STATE (1-0)
Yenor 4-6 4-5 12, Bradley 3-7 0-0 6, Westbrook 5-10 2-2 16, Pakootas 3-8 0-0 8, Bailey 3-5 2-2 9, Stevenson 3-4 0-0 7, Hughes 3-6 2-2 11, Boyd 2-4 0-0 4, Potts 3-3 4-5 10, Albright 4-7 2-4 10. Totals 33-60 16-20 94.
Halftime: Lewis-Clark State, 43-31. 3-poin goals: Yellowstone Christian 4-16 (Pendley 1-1, King 1-3, Jones 1-4, Reed 1-7, Correa 0-1), Lewis-Clark State 12-24 (Westbrook 4-8, Hughes 3-5, Pakootas 2-6, Bailey 1-1, Stevenson 1-1, Yenor 1-2, Boyd 0-1). Fouled out: Noble. Rebounds: Yellowstone Christian 27 (Jones, King 6), Lewis-Clark State 41 (Potts 9). Assists: Yellowstone Christian 5 (Jones, Reed 2), Lewis-Clark State 15 (Westbrook, Hughes 3). Total fouls: Yellowstone Christian 22, Lewis-Clark State 25. A: 419.
YELLOWSTONE CHRISTIAN (0-2)
Pelletier 1-6 0-0 2, Worley 4-17 4-8 14, Alden 2-7 1-2 7, Amparan 0-3 0-0 0, Hayes 4-18 5-5 14, Sullivan 0-2 0-0.0, Johnson 2-6 1-2 5. Totals 13-59 11-17 42.
LEWIS-CLARK STATE (1-0)
Johnson 1-5 0-0 2, Burlage 5-5 9-9 20, Souvenir 1-2 0-0 2, Edmiston 5-10 0-0 12, Nielson 7-13 0-0 16, Schroeder 5-7 0-0 13, Borland 5-8 0-0 11,, Farmer 2-7 0-0 5, Weaver 1-6 0-0 3, Muhelhausen 3-3 1-2 7, Sykora 2-4 0-0 4, Sellmann 3-3 4-5 10. Totals 40-73 14-16 105.
Yellowstone Christian 2 10 10 20 42
Lewis-Clark State 23 29 30 23 105
3-point goals: Yellowstone Christian 5-27 (Alden 2-6, Worley 1-8, Hayes 1-7, Amparan 0-1, Pelletier 0-2, Johnson 0-3), Lewis-Clark State 11-33 (Schroeder 3-5, Edmiston 2-6, Nielson 2-7, Burlage 1-1, Burland 1-3, Weaver 1-5, Farmer 1-6). Fouled out: None. Rebounds: Yellowstone Christian 28 (Worley, Johnson 5), Lewis-Clark State 57 (Edmiston 8). Assists: Yellowstone Christian 2 (Worley 2), Lewis-Clark State 24 (Souvenir, Farmer 6). Total fouls: Yellowstone Christian 13, Lewis-Clark State 15. A: N/A.
For video of men’s coach Austin Johnson, click here: https://lmtribune.com/blogs/lcsc_warriors/lcsc-men-s-coach-austin-johnson-talks-about-his-team/video_843ce096-f45b-11e9-a2a9-673b28177729.html
For video of women’s coach Brian Orr, click here: https://lmtribune.com/blogs/lcsc_warriors/lcsc-women-s-coach-brian-orr-talks-after-monday-s/video_5fc7b7f0-f45a-11e9-a18d-ef00173fce6d.html
Walden is sports editor of The Tribune. He can be reached at (208) 848-2258, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @waldo9939.