Golden Eagles Erase Halftime Deficit, Earn First-Ever Conference Championship

SILOAM SPRINGS, Ark. (February 16, 2013) — Despite not finding the scoreboard for the first 6:22 of the game, the No. 4 Golden Eagles received a career-high 25 points from senior guard E.J. McWoods and erased a 12-point halftime deficit to defeat Lubbock Christian (Texas), 84-78, in double-overtime on Saturday afternoon at Bill George Arena, capturing the program's first-ever Sooner Athletic Conference regular season championship.

With two games remaining in its 2012-13 campaign, John Brown moves to 24-4 overall and 13-1 in conference play. Lubbock Christian falls into a tie with Rogers State (Okla.) with the loss, and now stands at 7-7 in SAC action and 14-12 overall.

McWoods' career-high output came mainly from the charity stripe, knocking down all 13 attempts he took. McWoods almost turned in a perfect night from the field, finishing 5-of-6 and 2-of-2 from three-point range, all while dishing out a game-high six assists. Freshman forward D'Shon Taylor chipped in with his second career double-double, adding 12 boards to his 19-point effort.

Senior guard Coleson Rakestraw added 20 points in the victory, draining 3-of-4 chances from beyond the arc while senior guard Abel Galliguez contributed 11 points, finishing 4-of-9 from the field to round out the Golden Eagle double-digit scorers.

The John Brown offense took some time to find the scoreboard and quickly found itself in a 11-0 hole before Rakestraw's bucket ended the 6:22 scoreless drought. Before then, the Golden Eagles turned the ball over five times and missed all six chances from the field. At the 10:15 mark, the Chaparrals answered Taylor's bucket with a triple of its own, pushing the visitor's lead to 15.

JBU responded by piecing together a small 5-0 run of its own, courtesy of a basket down low by Max Hopfgartner before Rakestraw's trey brought the deficit to within 10, 23-13. However, the Golden Eagles would experience offensive struggles yet again, this time not scoring any points for the next 3:45 as LCU built its lead back up to 17 (30-13), a game-high, with 3:20 left in the first stanza.

As the first half expired, the John Brown defense pitched a 3:20 shutout of its own and, with the help of a McWoods' basket down low resulting from a turnover and a Galliguez triple with 20 second left, the Golden Eagles faced a 12-point halftime deficit as the teams retreated to the locker rooms for intermission.

JBU had a difficult time burying shots in the first half, shooting just 31.8 percent (7-of22) while the Chaparrals shot at a 41.4 percent clip (12-of-29). The Golden Eagles were plagued by 11 turnovers over the first 20 minutes as Lubbock Christian committed only six.

Kofi Joseph's triple to open the second half pulled John Brown to within nine, 30-21, the first time JBU was able to come within single digits of the Chaps since the 13:33 mark of the first half. The visitor's lead grew back to 13 at the 15:32 mark, however, as Lubbock Christian scored five of the next seven points, returning the lead back to double-digit territory.

John Brown began to find its scoring touch, racing to a 9-0 run over the next 3:40, as JBU received seven-consecutive points from Rakestraw. The senior guard knocked down two field goals, one from three-point range, in addition to converting two chances at the free throw line, drawing the Golden Eagles to within four, 36-32. Through the middle stages of the second half, both teams continued to trade points, but it was the Chaps that scored five more points than the host squad, grabbing a 16-11 advantage to return the lead back to nine, 52-43, with just over four minutes left in the second half.

Buckets by Taylor and Galliguez bookended a single LCU free throw, and the Chap lead evaporated to four when McWoods' basket under the hoop fell, pushing the score to 53-49. Free throw shooting became a factor down the stretch as McWoods nailed a pair from the charity stripe before Taylor knocked down two of his own.

Down by only a field goal with with 1:42 remaining, Lubbock Christian heaved a three-point attempt that wouldn't fall, but the Chaps grabbed an important offensive rebound to keep the play alive. The John Brown defense forced a critical turnover and with it gained an opportunity to tie the game or take the lead with 1:06 left in regulation.

With only 34 seconds on the clock and the crowd on its feet, Kent High missed a jumped but Taylor nabbed a timely rebound, drawing a foul on a put-back attempt that nearly fell. Taylor again stepped up to the line and calmly dropped both chances, tying the score for the first time all night at 55 apiece. On the ensuing possession, LCU milked the clock but was unable to capture the win as time expired, forcing overtime, much to the delight of the Bill George Arena crowd.

The first overtime featured careful possessions by each squad. The Chaps took an early two-point advantage that was short lived as Taylor's bucket knotted the score again before McWoods' triple handed the Golden Eagles its first lead of the afternoon, 60-57. Lubbock Christian responded again and, after a free throw and a field goal, forced the third tie of the game. With 48 ticks remaining in the first overtime, McWoods drew a foul and easily converted both chances at the stripe.

With a chance to sour John Brown's night again, LCU earned another deadlock on its last possession as A.J. Luckey's drive to the hoop fell, evening the score at 62. With the last possession of the frame, High's three-point attempt fell short, but a fortunate carom gave John Brown another chance at victory with 1.9 seconds on the clock. On the in-bounds, Taylor's off-balance shot didn't fall as the squads prepared for a second overtime. Both teams only notched seven points in the first extra session.

The second overtime was a different story. Each team grabbed four early points over the first 1:27 of the stanza, causing the game's sixth tie, 66-66. Back-to-back triples from Rakestraw and Galliguez pushed the host's lead back to four where it stayed until another perfect round of free throws from McWoods propelled the lead to five, 77-72, with 51 seconds remaining, essentially wrapping up the victory.

Both squads were well past the double-bonus threshold, so the remainder of the contest became a free-throw shooting contest. Rakestraw split his two shots while McWoods buried another pair of baskets from the stripe, handing the Golden Eagles the victory, 84-78.

The JBU rebounding effort barely edged the visitors, 38-35, but the Golden Eagles converted 10 offensive rebounds into 14 second-chance points. Although the Chaps dominated scoring in the paint, 32-24, the John Brown reserves landed a 22-point advantage in bench scoring, 46-24. Between the three senior guard Rakestraw, Galliguez and McWoods, the trio landed 56 of the Golden Eagles' 84 points.

A.J. Luckey scored a team-high 21 points for the Chaparrals, shooting a perfect 11-of-11 from the free throw line. Jabril Durham pulled down 12 rebounds and handed out five assists in the losing effort for LCU.

Despite its slow start, John Brown finished the game shooting 40.7 percent (24-of-59), including a 9-of-24 effort from beyond the arc. The Chaps finished 25-of-64 from the field (39.1 percent), but only managed six treys on 20 opportunities.

Each squad shot well from the free throw line as JBU finished 24-of-27. Lubbock Christian ended up 22-of-26 from the charity stripe.

Unlike previous seasons where the regular season champion earned an automatic berth to the NAIA National Tournament, this season the Sooner Athletic Conference features only nine teams, which mandates winning a tournament championship in order to clinch at spot in Kansas City. Despite this, John Brown features an NAIA-best 5-1 record against top-25 opposition, and, with a regular season championship under its belt, looks to continue its six-game winning streak into the final week of the season.

The Golden Eagles wrap up regular season play with a pair of games versus ranked opponents. John Brown will travel to Oklahoma City to face No. 23 Mid-America Christian on Thursday, Feb. 21, before closing the 2012-13 campaign at Bill George Arena on Saturday, Feb. 23, in a matinee affair against No. 10 Oklahoma Baptist.

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