Fullerton, CA- Hope International allowed just five ties the entire game but had to fight off Arizona Christian in the end to pull out a 69-66 win on Tuesday. Senior Jeremy Kilgore finished the evening tied with a game high 20 points.
Junior Austin Sanford scored the first three points of the game- a free throw and then two HIU possessions later a jumper.
ACU's Brandon Newman knocked down a three pointer to knot the score at 3-3.
The Royals (15-9, 3-6 GSAC) used two pointers from Juniors Carlton Hayes and Matt Green followed by a Kilgore basket to build a 9-5 advantage.
Another Newman three brought the Firestorm (18-6, 4-5 GSAC) within one at 9-8.
That score eventually rolled over to a 14-10 HIU on top score. HIU used the next two and a half minutes to build an eleven point advantage thanks to a Kilgore three pointer and Green chipping in four points. The 11 point spread turned out to the largest of the game.
Arizona Christian eventually came to within three points of Hope International on multiple occasions including at the half with HIU ahead 38-35.
Kilgore led all scorers with 14 points. The trio of Newman (10 points), Talib Uqdah (11 points), and Dan Cornelius (12 points) had accounted for all but two of the ACU first half points.
HIU used the first six and a half minutes of the second half to build up to a 10 point edge. A Green three pointer made the score 49-39.
However in almost an exact three minute time frame, Arizona Christian used a 12-2 run to force at 51-51 tie. Five minutes later, the score was tied again at 56 all. Four minutes after that, the game saw a tie of 63-63.
Sophomore Garrett Neilan managed to get an off balanced shot to fall and HIU was up 65-63. After ACU missed what was a pretty easy opportunity and Sanford grabbed the rebound, Green was fouled and sent to the free throw line for a 1-and-1. Green promptly went to the line and calmly nailed both free throws to give the Royals a 67-63 edge.
Newman nailed a quick three pointer and the score was just one point again at 67-66. With just seconds left, ACU fouled again. Sanford went to the line and made both free throws to account for the final score (though Newman just missed with a mid-court three as time expired).
Behind the 20 points of Kilgore and Newman, Uqdah finished with 15 for ACU and Green accounted for 13 points for HIU.
Head Coach Bill Czech exhaustedly stated, "I am really proud of the effort of the guys in sticking together. Sanford really battled the entire game and made a lot of effort plays including four offensive rebounds. Execution was as good as it has been in a long time. James Bailey came off the bench to give us a real steady force at point guard (including burying two big three pointers). Kilgore was phenomenal in his defensive assignment on Uqdah and shot the ball very well. Green was Mr. Clutch at the free throw line and iced the game. As a group, we appreciate all the support from the Administration, Faculty/Staff, and fellow students. We will keep battling as a team and continue getting better."
The Royals will attempt to repeat the winning formula when they travel to Westmont in Santa Barbara on Saturday. The teams will tip-off at 7: 30 pm. Arizona Christian will head to Vanguard on Thursday with the men actually playing the first game of their double header starting at 5:30 pm.