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In order to stay sharp, Southwestern used its off day in the conference schedule to take on powerful Southeast Nebraska in Beatrice Saturday. The result was a satisfying Spartan win, 62-53. The first half saw several lead changes, but Southwestern gaining control by one, 29-28, on the heels of two three-point goals from Marcus Littleton, and two inside baskets by Jared Theis (pictured). Meanwhile, the Spartans had focused on defensive transition, attempting to limit the high-octane Storm from easy baskets. Southwestern grabbed a nine point advantage with 10 minutes to play on the strength of two nice feeds from Marquealis Edwards to Devin Kastrup inside, but Southeast fought back to within one point, 44-43, with four minutes to play. Patrick Wright then made two big plays in succession for the Spartans, leading to a basket and rebound on the defensive end. In Southwestern’s next possession, Delby Halcomb connected on two free throws to up the lead to 48-44, at which point the Spartans used ball control and an impressive 21-24 from the free throw line to put the game out of reach.
As the conference positions jumble together with a few games to play, Southwestern needed a win at Ellsworth, who was running second in the league as of Saturday. Ellsworth came out of the gates strong, banging in two three-point goals immediately for an early 6-2 advantage, but Southwestern settled in and began to make some defensive stops, and took advantage of some strong inside finishes from Patrick Wright, Marquealis Edwards, and Devin Kastrup. Southwestern took a 32-27 lead to the locker room.
After dropping an overtime game to Des Moines Area on the road earlier this season, Southwestern was hoping for better results on their home turf. The Bears, however, were able to pull out the win with key free throw connections late in the second half, tallying a 59-54 conference decision. DMACC took a 24-22 lead into half. Both teams asserted defensive control in the first frame, as DMACC tried to speed up the Spartans, and Southwestern used a protective approach to try to compensate on defensive rebounds.
Like many of Southwestern’s league games this season, Saturday’s battle with Clinton came down to a tight game with three minutes to play. The Spartans actually looked to be in jeopardy with just over three minutes when the Cougars connected on a three-point goal to take a 41-38 lead. Southwestern had an answer with a dribble attack from Patrick Wright that led to a basket and free throw. From there, Southwestern clamped down on the defensive end, forcing a turnover in the next possession and eventually getting a big drawn charge from Delby Halcomb. Marquealis Edwards provided the offense, connecting on an additional old-fashioned three-point play to give the Spartans a 44-41 pad with just under two minutes. From there, Southwestern played ball control and made free throws for an eventual margin of 50-41.
The win moves the Spartans to third in a log-jammed ICCAC. They will next play Des Moines Area Wednesday at home. Tip-off follows the women’s game at approximately 7:30.