The long-awaited return to the home court for Southwestern’s men’s basketball team ended just like its previous 12 road games had.
With the Spartans celebrating a big win.
While it was tricky at various points, the Spartans had more than enough to remain perfect on the season.
Southwestern, ranked second in NJCAA Division II, stayed perfect at 16-0 with a 101-92 win over NJCAA Division I 18th-ranked Indian Hills at Spartan Gym.
The Spartans walked off the court celebrating one of their better wins of the season.
“It was a big win,” said freshman Khallid Edwards. “Sixteeen and 0. We feel like we’re walking on water.”
The Spartans walked off the court high-fiving each other, sharing embraces to the approval of a large home crowd in Southwestern’s first home game since Nov. 9.
“We’re very hungry and determined,” said sophomore Jamil Maddred. “We want it this year.”
The Spartans needed contributions from all 11 who stepped on the court.
“Everybody who played did what we asked of them, whether it was a defensive assignment or an offensive play,” said Southwestern coach Todd Lorensen. “They all did a great job.”
Southwestern’s strong team chemistry helped it survive the highs and lows.
“We love to play with each other,” Edwards said. “We feel we carry each other. Everybody is there for everybody.”
A variety of players had the hot hand throughout. Four finished in double figures offensively, with only a five-point gap between the top scorer and the fourth scorer.
Jamil Maddred led the way with 21 points, 18 coming in the second half. Jordan Johnson had 18 points, nine coming off of 3-point baskets. Brodric Thomas poured in 17 points, 15 in the second half. Calvin Chambers added 16 points.
“We’ve got a lot of scorers on this team,” said sophomore Jamil Maddred. “There’s a wide variety with us. If it’s not my night, it’s everyone else’s. We do what we have to do.”
Southwestern’s 16th victory of the season did not come easy.
At times in the second half, it appeared the win was slipping out of their grasp.
Indian Hills closed within one, 63-62, halfway through the second half.
Edwards came up with a big time shot, a triple to pushed the lead back to four, 66-62. Maddred followed with another trey to extend the lead back to seven, 69-62.
Indian Hills cut it to two, 85-83, with three and a half to go, but the Spartans closed out the game with a 17-8 surge to seal another win.
The Spartans showed the mental fortitude it takes to win a close game, something they’ve not had much of lately.
“I was proud of the way they battled and continued to fight,” Lorensen said. “As things got close in the second half, they answered each punch they gave us and found a way to get the win.”
Southwestern attacked the defensive glass with purpose in the final few minutes. That sense of purpose benefited the Spartans on the other end.
“I was happy with the way we rebounded the last two, three minutes to keep those guys off the glass, which allowed us to get to the free throw line and extend it and seal the deal,” Lorensen said.
The Spartans also came up with a big hustle play on the offensive end. Southwestern forced a tie-up underneath its own basket after a missed shot. The Spartans took possession on the alternating possession.
Maddred took advantage of the extra possession, burying a big 3-pointer to put the Spartans up eight, 92-84.
Maddred’s shot had the home fans rocking.
The Spartans fed off the raucous atmosphere all game long.
“It was an amazing small-college environment,” Lorensen said. “I was happy the guys got to experience that.”
Indian Hills wouldn’t come any closer.
The life Maddred plays with inspires his teammates.
“Jamil’s full of energy,” Edwards said. “He’s probably the biggest energy player I’ve ever played with.”
Maddred’s fire and determination showed in making the key shot.
“Jamil’s an extremely competitive young man,” Lorensen said. “Throughout the week, we told him if he could do some good things for us, they’d have a hard time defending him. He was making jump shots, getting to the paint, making plays for others, battling on the defensive end.”
Southwestern made six straight free throws in the final minute.
The Spartans jumped to a scorching-hot start. Maddred started with a triple, keying an 8-0 run to open the game.
“I said we’ve got to punch them in the mouth on the first play of the game,” Maddred said. “I let it rip.”
Maddred’s offensive game has come around in recent contests.
It carried over into the first game of 2017.
“I’ve been hitting my shots so I feel comfortable,” Maddred said.
The Spartans eventually pushed the lead to as many as 11, 35-24, on a Keshawn Wilson triple with 10:21 to go.
Indian Hills’ defense stiffened in the second part of the first half. Southwestern was held to 12 points over the final 10 minutes. The Spartan defense was effective enough in allowing them to hold a 47-41 lead at halftime.
The Warriors chipped away at the lead at different times in the second half, but the Spartans always had an answer. Indian Hills cut it to one possession early in the second half, but Maddred countered with a bucket to push the lead back to five, 56-51.
“We knew we were going to experience runs and that’s what happened,” Lorensen said. “Our guys did a great job of maintaining their composure, getting great looks.”
UP NEXT — Southwestern opens Iowa Community College Conference play Saturday hosting Kirkwood.
The Eagles (11-3) topped Illinois Central College 74-62 on Tuesday.
Saturday’s game is set for a 3 p.m. tip in Creston, with the women’s game to follow.
The Spartans split last season’s two meetings with the Eagles, each winning on their home court.
Southwestern’s mindset is to keep locked in every game.
“We want to keep getting stronger,” Maddred said. “Kirkwood is next. We’re hungry. We play every game like it’s zero and zero and the other team’s zero and zero. We’ve got to bring it every single day. That’s what we do in practice, on the court and in film.”
The defending NJCAA Division II national champions are the standard by which other teams in the ICCAC measure themselves up to.
“Kirkwood is a great program,” Lorensen said. “I keep telling people until somebody beats them and wins the league, they’re the team. I firmly believe that.”