DALLAS (Jan. 11, 2014) – After a difficult start in Oklahoma Christian’s first two Heartland Conference games in 2014, freshman forward Jordan VanDeKop came to practice this week ready to work hard, coach Dan Hays said.
That work paid off Saturday afternoon at the Burg Center against Dallas Baptist (Texas). VanDeKop scored three critical baskets in the game’s final eight minutes, then went 3 of 4 from the free-throw line in the final 10.7 seconds to seal a 69-65 win for the Eagles.
OC (5-8, 1-4 Heartland Conference) snapped a five-game losing streak, its longest since the 2006-07 season, while extending Dallas Baptist’s losing streak to five games. OC is unbeaten in three games against Dallas Baptist (4-8, 1-4) since joining the Heartland before the 2012-13 season and is 17-7 all-time against the Patriots.
VanDeKop came off the bench for only the second time this season but made the important plays when the Eagles needed them.
“Jordan VanDeKop was terrific in the high post in the second half,” Hays said. “He’s a skilled player. He had a tough weekend last weekend but he was terrific in practice all week long. We went back with Josh (Faurot in the starting lineup) to give us energy and Jordan to come off the bench to give us the lineup we hadn’t had when we got down to that crunch time and we folded, frankly, the last few games.
“We were both desperate for a win. It wasn’t beautiful. We made some mistakes, but we took a couple of steps forward. I thought our patience against their zone in the second half was terrific.”
In a back-and-forth game that saw 16 lead changes and seven ties, neither team led by more than six points. The final lead change came on a three-point play by VanDeKop with 7:54 left that put the Eagles ahead 51-50, part of a 7-0 run.
Dallas Baptist tied the game for the final time at 56-56 on a 3-pointer by Myles Johnson with 5:57 left. VanDeKop scored on a pair of short, driving runners in the lane to keep the Eagles ahead, but Johnson hit another 3-pointer with 3:04 left to pull the Patriots within 60-59.
Nick Tate scored on a baseline drive to put OC up 62-59 with 2:01 left, and after a turnover by the Patriots, Willie Harper nailed a deep 3-pointer from the right wing to push the Eagles’ lead to 65-59 with 1:19 left.
Dallas Baptist had one more push. Jason Gentry pulled the Patriots within 65-63 on a layup with 23 seconds left. Harper his 1 of 2 free throws for OC with 20.3 seconds left, then was called for a foul on what officials ruled was a shot by the Patriots’ leading scorer, Jonathan Perry. Perry made both free throws to make it 66-65 with 11.2 seconds left.
VanDeKop took the ensuing inbounds pass from Harper and was fouled. VanDeKop made both free throws, and after Perry double-clutched, then airballed, a 3-point attempt, VanDeKop rebrounded and was fouled again. He made the second of his two free throws to clinch the win.
“We’re an average team now … but it’s coming together,” Hays said. “I’d won, counting my high school wins, between 700 and 800 games and I didn’t know if I was ever going to win another game. That’s how I was feeling. But we got one and now we need to go get two.”
Kendre Talley, the second-leading scorer in the conference, had 12 of his 18 points before halftime to give the Eagles a 34-33 lead. Talley went 3 of 4 from 3-point range and made all seven of his free throws while adding four assists and three steals.
Freshman center John Moon contributed 15 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots against a smaller Dallas Baptist squad while Harper scored 11 points.
Perry scored 16 to lead Dallas Baptist but was 1 of 6 from 3-point range, while Johnson scored 14 points. The Patriots went 7 of 27 from 3-point range (25.9 percent) and 16 of 25 from the free-throw line (64 percent).
OC will play its next four games at home, starting on Thursday against Oklahoma Panhandle State.
“We’re a work in progress,” Hays said. “We’re moving forward. We’re going to get in the (Eagles’) Nest Thursday night. It will be the first time we’ve played with our own students there since Dec. 2. I hope that Big Ben Meaders and his gang will rally everybody and we can get on a little bit of a roll.”