Royals avenge early season blowout

Hope International did not trail once and cut down the higher ranked Eagles 54-47.

Kyle Kohner, Writer

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In their last regular season match as opposing members of the Golden State Athletic Conference, the Hope International Royals grounded the Biola Eagles 54-47 Saturday night in Fullerton, Calif. The Royals’ far superior play in the paint lifted them to an important victory, avenging their double-digit loss to the Eagles on Jan. 10.

Quick-start offense

While both teams have only allowed a ridiculously low 61 points per game on defense up until Saturday, both teams struggled to stop one another coming out of the gates, as the No. 10 ranked Royals went pound for pound with the No. 4 ranked Eagles on offense by grabbing an early lead.

After senior guard Dakari Archer’s layup tied the game at nine apiece, Royals’ star junior center Liam Hunt pushed his team ahead with a quick 9-0 run, establishing early on that Biola would have a tough time stymying the Royals’ imposing big man.

 "Hunt stretches the floor for them. He can knock down the three ball and he passes the ball extremely well from his position," Archer said. Thus, the Royals extended their lead even further for a 34-24 Royals halftime lead.

In the first half, Hope's frontcourt imposed their will by crashing the glass fequently, domineering their way to a 15-10 rebounding advantage and 20 points in the paint compared to the Eagles’ 14.

On the positive side for the Eagles, Archer impressed in the first half by shooting a perfect 4-4 from the field en route to eight points.

Comeback falls short

The Eagles came out energized in the second half and managed to play more physical in the paint while tightening up on defense.

With those second half adjustments, Biola slowly chipped away at their rivals’ lead. The Royals stretched their lead back to 9 points with under five minutes left in the game, then junior guard Blake Shannon Jr. took matters in his own hands and knocked down a quick three then hit one out of two free throws on the next Biola possession, cutting the Royals’ lead back down to five.

With momentum clearly swung in the Eagles’ favor, Archer drained a deep two to cut the lead down to three, providing his team a gleam of hope to finally take the lead.

Unfortunately, Biola could not capitalize on the momentum swing and eventually faltered, allowing the Royals to expand their lead back to seven and stifle the Eagles for the final game score, coming away as the victors in the teams' final regular season matchup as division rivals.

Regardless of the outcome, both teams proved why they are numbers two and three in defense in the nation. Biola forced 12 Royal turnovers while Hope forced seven. But the Royals managed to out-block the Eagles six to two, including a couple of late ones that impeded the Eagles’ hopes for a comeback.

The Eagles struggled slightly more in the paint than the Royals, as Hope outrebounded Biola 34-30, with 28-20 advantage in defensive boards.

"We could have rebounded a lot harder because they got a lot of easy put backs," said Archer. "We also could have played better post defense and having the guards help our bigs down low."

Championship hopes take a hit

The Eagles’ chances of winning the regular season GSAC Championship took a huge blow with Saturday night’s loss, as it dropped their conference record to 11-4 and their overall record to 25-4. With the win, Hope saw their chances of capturing the title rise as they improved their conference record to 11-3 and 22-6 overall.

The Eagles will come home to Chase Gymnasium for senior night on Tuesday, Feb. 21, their last regular season game as a GSAC member. The Eagles will tip off against the San Diego Christian Hawks at 7:30 p.m.