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Royals slip past Warriors in closing seconds

waldorf-warriors-outline_1By Matt Oliver

OMAHA, Neb. – It was a down-to-the-wire battle, but the Waldorf College men’s basketball team fell short in a 78-76 loss to Grace University on Saturday.

“Whenever you step on the court, you have to be ready to play your best ball,” Waldorf coach Nigel Jenkins said. “We definitely didn’t do that more so on the defensive end than anything else.”

Miscues sidetracked the Warriors (11-9), who saw the Royals (10-11) extend their winning streak to six games.

“There were just way too many breakdowns and to Grace’s credit, they capitalized on it,” Jenkins said. “They’re a team that’s definitely on a hot streak right now.”

Erik Brewer led Waldorf with 23 points. The 6-foot-6 senior forward from Las Vegas collected six rebounds and shot 50 percent, going 7-of-14 from the field and 4-of-7 (57.1 percent) from 3-point range.

Sophomore Kaden Verdin added 14 points and pulled down a team-high eight rebounds for the Warriors. The 6-foot-9 center from Atwater, California came off the bench to go 3-of-5 (60 percent) from the floor and converted on 8-of-11 (72.7 percent) trips to the free-throw line.

Waldorf junior Michael Morgan turned in 10 points, five boards and two assists while knocking down 5-of-8 (62.5 percent) attempts from the field. Sophomore BJ Brown provided nine points and freshman Isaiah Curry scored six points. Senior Tyler Parrish finished with five points and a team-high three assists while sophomore Eric English dropped in four points. Junior Pierre Roddy chipped in with three points and freshman Devon Collins contributed two points.

D.J. Hanes paced the Royals with a game-high 28 points, burying 11-of-17 (64.7 percent) shots from the floor and hitting his only two attempts behind the arc.

Grace’s Hakeem Stewart netted 21 points, going 6-of-11 (54.5 percent) from the field and 3-of-6 (50 percent) from downtown. LeRoy Anderson recorded a double-double, scoring 10 points and grabbing 10 rebounds to help the Royals win the battle on the boards by a 35-33 margin. Jamil Santiel also had 10 points and a game-high five assists.

Waldorf shot 50 percent in the first half, going 14-of-28 from the field and 4-of-9 (44.4 percent) from 3-point land while claiming a 37-31 halftime lead. Grace shot 13-of-28 (46.4 percent) from the floor and went 5-of-7 (71.4 percent) from the perimeter in the first half.

The Warriors went 11-of-23 (47.8 percent) from the field in the second half to finish the night 25-of-51 (49 percent) from the floor and 6-of-15 (40 percent) behind the arc. Grace hit 43.8 percent of its second-half shots, connecting on 14-of-32 attempts from the field and 4-of-10 (40 percent) 3-pointers. The Royals ended the game shooting 27-of-60 (45 percent) from the floor and 9-of-17 (52.9 percent) from long range.

“Our rebounding wasn’t great,” Jenkins said. “Obviously, our defense wasn’t good either. Letting them shoot 52 percent from three is just not us.”

Waldorf converted on 20 of its 29 (69 percent) foul shots while Grace went 15-of-20 (75 percent) at the charity stripe.

The Warriors led by as many as seven points in the game, building a 38-31 advantage 13 seconds into the second half. A 15-6 run put the Royals in front 46-44 with 15 minutes, 53 seconds to play. Grace never relinquished the lead and held a 71-64 cushion with 4:25 remaining.

Brewer hit a pair of free throws to cap a 10-3 run for Waldorf, tying the score at 74-all with 1:15 to go. Hanes answered with two foul shots on the ensuing possession. Brewer added a bucket to tie the game at 76-all. Stewart converted on two free throws with six seconds left on the clock and the Warriors came up empty on the game’s final possession.

The loss marked the second straight night where Waldorf missed an opportunity at the final buzzer.

“We’re just not playing very well on the road,” Jenkins said. “We’re not executing very well.”

Grace controlled the offensive glass, 15-11 and generated a 19-10 advantage in second-points.

Waldorf committed 13 turnovers and was outscored by an 18-13 margin in points off turnovers. The Royals turned the ball over 12 times.

“There were spurts where we didn’t take care of the ball all that well,” Jenkins said. “We’ve got to defend, rebound and take care of the basketball.”

After a tough finish to the weekend road trip, the Warriors are going back to the drawing board.

“We have to figure some things out,” Jenkins said. “I know it’s tough to win on the road, but our execution was poor and we had mental breakdowns throughout the game from start to finish. We’ve got to be better than that no matter where we play.”

Looking to snap a four-game losing streak, Waldorf hosts Clarke University (10-10) on Monday at 7 p.m. Limiting turnovers will be crucial in the matchup with the Crusaders.

“We’ve got to take care of the ball to give ourselves a chance,” Jenkins said. “Clarke isn’t going to lie down for us by any stretch of the imagination. We’ve got to be ready to play.”