‘Poised’ Lions win hard fought battle

Junior forward, Darrell Redmond goes after the loose ball during the Feb. 1 game against SBU.

Junior forward, Darrell Redmond goes after the loose ball during the Feb. 1 game against SBU.

Keith Robertson

With his father in attendance to celebrate his birthday on Feb. 5, sophomore guard Hiram Ocasio scored 16 points to lead Missouri Southern to its second straight win and its seventh out of its last nine games.

“I was excited tonight because my dad was here to see me play on his birthday, and I wanted to play well for him,” Ocasio said.

The Lions’ 72-57 win over Central Missouri State University started out somewhat sloppy for both teams. The Lions and Mules had trouble putting points on the board and protecting the basketball for the first 10 minutes of the game, but they both got on track and made the end of the first half exciting.

After exchanging scores for a few minutes, Southern went ahead late in the first half and went into the break leading 36-31.

The bright spots for the Lions in the first half were the play of Ocasio on offense and defense and the scoring of junior guard MacKenzie Sherrel, who added nine points off the bench in the half.

The usual leaders of the team, junior guard Ameer Watts and senior forward Jamahr Warren, were held in check by the Mules’ defense.

The second half proved to be considerably different for the Lions as they jumped out quickly on the visiting Mules. By about midway through the second half, they began to pull away from Central and built up a double digit lead that remained for the duration of the game.

Southern head coach Robert Corn said there was no doubt that it was “an ugly game but a beautiful win.”

The win,Corn said, was a must to build up some much-needed confidence for the team to carry with it on upcoming conference road games.

“There aren’t going to be any easy wins out there for us, and the dogfights are just going to continue for us in the conference, especially on the road,” Corn said.

Next up for Southern is a road game at Northwest Missouri State University, which Corn believes will be a hard-fought competition.

“We have to go in there with some poise,” Corn said. “We can’t let anything outside the lines affect the way we play.

“We have played pretty good on the road at times this season, and hopefully the team has matured enough to go out and play well on the road to finish out the season.”

The Lions will also have some tough conference home games, including games against boarder rival Pittsburg State and the University of Missouri-Rolla, who handed them a loss on Jan. 29 in Rolla.

“We have to just go out, keep playing hard and do what we’ve been doing all year,” Ocasio said about moving into the final month of the regular season.

“We want to be in a good position for the conference tournament, and we feel like we can finish the season strong.”