(Mesa, AZ) The Park University Gilbert men’s basketball team show grit and resiliency in overcoming multiple deficits and two overtimes to win its opening conference game for the second year in a row, beating in-state rival Benedictine Mesa in a thrilling 82-78 win at Legacy Sports Park.
The Bucs move to 4-3 overall and 1-0 in conference play, while the Redhawks drop its second game of the season at 4-2 and are 0-1 in the Cal Pac.
This game was as tight as a warped wooden door in a humid Midwest summer. There were 12 ties and 15 leads changes throughout the game as both teams would not allow the other to pull away.
In the first half BENU’s largest lead was four and Park’s was three. The Buccaneers shot 38 percent from the floor and from three-point range. The Redhawks shot 36 from the field and 30 percent from beyond the arc. LC Ballard and Terrence Ward each had eight points in the half.
In the second half, the Bucs increased their lead to four before a 10-1 BENU run put them in the lead 45-40. But Park would respond to cut the deficit to one. The Redhawks answered with a 7-0 run to take the largest lead of the night at eight 52-44. In the past, the Bucs may have folded in this scenario, as BENU had a seven-point advantage 55-48 with six and half minutes to go. But within three minutes, a 11-2 Buccos run, fueled by nine Ballard points, put them back in front 59-57.
Benedictine took the lead by one, then Dohl Majak made a layup to retake the lead. BENU converted an and 1 with 1:39 to go to take a two-point lead. Both teams would miss opportunities over the next minute until Aidan Moreno tied the game with a layup with 39 second to go.
Park had an opportunity to win it in regulation as they had the ball with 20 second remaining and could hold for the last shot. They put it in the hands of their closer Ballard who had a look at a three-pointer, but it would rattle out and the Bucs would go to overtime for the first time this season.
BENU jumped out to a four-point lead to begin the first overtime, but a three with the shot clock running out by Moreno would cut the lead to one. Then after a Redhawk layup, Caleb Ivywould knock down a three-pointer to tie the game once again with 1:12 remaining. Each team would miss a jumper down the stretch to take the lead and a second overtime was in the works.
Benedictine would jump out again, this time on a three-pointer. Park would respond with back-to-back Majack layups to take the lead. Another lead change as three free throws gave BENU a two point lead.
Terrence Ward knocked down his first three of the game to retake the lead for good with 1:02 left. Then Ballard closed things out with free throws to up the advantage to five, before a desperation three from BENU cut the lead to two with three seconds to go. They fouled Ballard and he made two more free throws to seal an 82-78 win. The key down the stretch was Park made four of its last five shots from the floor, while BENU was 1-8, with the “one” being a desperation three with the game in hand.
Ballard set a career high with 26 points and added five rebounds. Terrence Ward and Calen Ivy each had 11 points. Ivy added eight boards and Ward had six rebounds and six assists.
The Bucs had an advantage on the glass out rebounding the Spirit by seven 55-48. They also won the battle in the paint, 26-16.
Up next for the Bucs, is last year’s regular season champs Antelope Valley. Game time is 7:30 p.m. at Legacy Sports Park.
Press Release courtesy of Park University Athletics – Preston English