PARKVILLE, Mo. – Noel Surles led four in double figures with 23 points and Xavielle Brown posted a dozen points and rebounds, lifting Park University to its second win of the season over Williams Baptist College, 76-64, Thursday night at Breckon Sports Center in Parkville.
"Williams Baptist is a very tough team to hold off because they're so good at making runs, but we did enough to stay ahead of those runs tonight," said Park coach Jason Kline. "After that first-half run where they got it to six, I thought we'd be in for a fight, but our guys did a nice job of responding. We've let go of a couple double-digit leads this year, so I think that's a sign of a team maturing a bit to get it right back to a 10-point lead."
The Pirates improved to 14-5 and picked up an important February win in the American Midwest Conference, moving their league record to 11-4, getting another 12 points from Ikem Eriobuna and 16 from BJ Watson. Williams' EJ Rucker led all scorers with 24 points, one of three Eagles in double figures, as WBC fell to 6-14, 2-12 in the AMC.
Park had back-to-back dunks in the first half to help race out to a double-digit lead, Eriobuna throwing down Watson's toss near the rim, a trip before Surles went to the glass for a fast-break jam with 14:10 before halftime. The lead was 26-13 at the 10-minute mark when Dalton Rose tipped in a missed 3-pointer from Brown, and a minute later, Brown got a put-back of his own on an Eriobuna miss to double the Eagles up, 30-15.
Rucker had Williams back within six on back-to-back baskets near the 5:00 mark, but Surles answered and stopped the run with 4:45 in the half, scoring off the window to make it 34-26, followed by another dunk for Eriobuna to put the lead back in double figures, 36-26.
The Eagles were back within eight again on a basket by Allen Buchanan 10 seconds before the halftime horn, but at the buzzer, Watson buried three of his 11 first-half points from the corner, taking a 46-34 lead to the break.
Watson struck again to begin the second half, this time with a laser at the foul line to make it 48-34, and two minutes in, Surles had the Pirates back in front by 16, finding a pair near the restricted arc in the lane to make it 50-34.
With 12 minutes to play, Brown found Rose in the corner for three points to make it 63-41, but Park wasn't as dominant over the next four minutes, giving up an 11-2 run to let Williams back within 13, a run that stopped when Shackeel Butters fouled Brown, who made the back end of two shots to go back in front by 14, 66-52. A Park stop on WBC's next possession allowed Watson to complete a three-point play on the ensuing fast break, stretching the lead to 17, and with 6:49 to go, Surles made two free throws as Park's lead swelled to 71-52.
Williams didn't go away in the final minutes, as Rucker buried a three from the right wing to make it a 12-point game, but Park was able to bleed two shot clocks before a fast-break dunk for Surles with a minute to go, securing a 76-64 win, Park's second double-figure victory of the season over the Eagles.
"We haven't had two wins like these over Williams Baptist since our first couple of years in the league when we were a national-tournament team," Kline said. "Part of that is due to the job Josh Austin has done. They're a very talented group and it's a good win for us."
The Pirates have No. 22 Freed-Hardeman University Saturday at The Breck in a game that could pull the Pirates in to a second-place tie with a win. FHU did not play Thursday, with their women on the road at Stephens College, and Saturday's game tips off at 3 p.m., on the Pirate Sports Network at www.parkathletics.tv.