Thomasville Times Enterprise

Local Sports

January 15, 2014

Busting their slump

Night Hawks break four-game skid, down Gyrenes

THOMASVILLE — With Ave Maria focused on taking away the Sun Conference’s leading scorer, Thomas University relied on a complete team effort Wednesday.

The result was a 76-70 win that snapped a four-game losing streak.

TU, which improved to 9-7 and 2-3, didn’t even get a shot from Justyn Watkins for nearly 16 minutes. However the Night Hawks hung close behind Max Grace and then Watkins tied the game at 24 on his first shot and completed the three-point play with a free throw that put TU ahead for good.

“They did take Justyn a way in the first half and we started to get him some more screens,” TU coach Stephen Cox said. “He was extremely patient this time. They went box-and-1 against us against Coastal Georgia, and he was getting really, really frustrated. But he was really more patient this game. He’s a senior. He’s experienced.”

Watkins finished with 18 points, one of four Night Hawks in double figures.

That three-point play was part of a 10-0 TU run keyed by its defense. The Night Hawks forced 14 Gyrene turnovers and scored five of its 18 points off turnovers during that run.

“We did a pretty good job defensively in the first half,” Cox added. “We’re a team that tries to keep teams in the 30s. Obviously in the second half we didn’t do a very good job of that, but we were able to sustain a lead.

“That’s kind of been our thing is ‘R and R.’ ‘R and R’ is rebounds and runs. If we can get a rebound, we can beat a lot of teams down the floor with our running. So we preach ‘R and R.’”

Prior to getting Watkins unleashed, the Night Hawks leaned on Grace, who scored 11 of TU’s first 13 points. That helped keep the Night Hawks close to the Gyrenes, who are 6-10 and 0-5 with a six-game losing streak. Ave Maria led 20-13 midway through the first half for its largest lead.

The Night Hawks, who led 31-27 at halftime, kept building on that advantage, pushing it to 51-40 with 10:52 left when Adonai Rogers scored off a Dionte Agard pass. However, the Gyrenes answered back.

Ave Maria scored the next eight points over a two-minute span to pull within three but the Gyrenes couldn’t get any closer. Watkins, who entered averaging 23.3 points per game, ended the Ave Maria run with a jumper at the 7:51 mark.

The next two times Ave Maria pulled within three, Grace answered with 3-pointers out of the right corner as he led TU with 19 points. Trey Gosier, a Thomasville High product, also hit a 3 to help keep the Gyrenes at arms length. Gosier added 15 and Rodney Sturkie finished with 11, including a jumper in the lane with 5:45 left and a 3 at the 2:24 mark. Andrea Robinson had 10 rebounds to go with six points.

“It was just a good team win,” Cox said.

Ave Maria was led by Matt Chattin’s 24 points. The guard entered third in the conference with a 21.6 average. John Russo added 14 and Ralph Erickson scored 13.

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