LEVELLAND — Chris Orlina recorded 19 points, five rebounds and four steals as the top-ranked South Plains College men's basketball team defeated Howard College 68-62 Monday night at the Texan Dome.
With the win, South Plains improves to 14-1 on the year and 3-0 in the Western Junior College Athletic Conference and will return to the hardwood on Thursday in Roswell when they take on New Mexico Military Institute at 6:30 p.m. MST. Thursday's contest will be streaming live at spctexans.com and Michael Wiiest of KLVT Radio Levelland will call the courtside action with pregame slated for 6:15 p.m. MST.
"It's always good to get a win in this conference, but we need to get back in the gym and get our game plan right and keep getting better moving forward," Orlina said. "Late in the game we had some mental lapse and coach Green called a couple timeouts to get us regrouped, and I think that's all that was. My teammates got me in the right position to score tonight and they did a great job helping me out."
Leading 33-27 at the midway point, South Plains ripped off a 20-4 run midway through the second half and would go on to lead by 18 on a Koray Gilbert' jumper with just over nine minutes to go. Howard would use a 10-4 run in the final seconds of the game and would get within five with seven seconds to play, but a free throw from Gilbert iced the contest as they held off the Hawks in the remaining seconds.
"This is exactly what I told them … 'I thought for 32 minutes we won a basketball game, and the last six or seven we were lucky we played good the first 32 or 33'," South Plains head coach Steve Green said. "They had no awareness of a lot of things and we have to do a whole lot better than that. We did a pretty good job until the last couple minutes, and we quit playing. Chris and I rode the bus up to Hutch and back last year together, and I know what to expect from him and I can trust him. We have some other guys that are going to have to step up and earn that too."
Orlina finished 6 of 12 from the field and 7 of 8 from the free throw line over 35 minutes. Sophomore Gaige Prim netted 16 points and 11 boards, knocking down 6 of 10 attempts from the floor in 40 minutes of action. Jonah Antonio tallied nine points for South Plains while Charles Jennings recorded eight points and five rebounds coming off the bench.
South Plains shot 45.8 percent from the floor and held the Hawks (9-4, 1-2) to a 35.1 percent mark from the field as Howard shot just 21.4 percent from the 3-point line. Howard's Matt Johnson led all scorers with 26 points on 8 of 16 shooting while Jake Heese recorded 13 points and six rebounds and Mike Harden finished with six points.