Small College Sports

Antwain Strong 1 assist shy of triple-double as Mount Mercy downs Clarke

Mustangs snap 3-game losing skid in 88-80 home victory

CEDAR RAPIDS — For the Mount Mercy men’s basketball team, the end of a losing streak offers little chance to exhale.

A road date with the top team in the conference is next.

“It kind of helps us get back into that rhythm,” fourth-year Mount Mercy Coach Aaron Jennings said after the Mustangs defeated Clarke, 88-80, in a Heart of America Athletic Conference men’s basketball game Wednesday night at Hennessey Recreation Center. “Now it doesn’t get easy, that’s for sure. Going to one of the top teams in the country.”

Mount Mercy (10-8, 5-7 HoA) had won seven of nine games before their recent three-game skid. On Saturday, the Mustangs travel to Kansas to play seventh-ranked Benedictine (16-2, 12-0), winner of 15 games in a row.

“They’re really good,” said Mount Mercy senior guard Antwain Strong, a Hudson graduate who nearly recorded a triple-double against Clarke with 13 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. “Benedictine wants you to play their game, so we’ve got to stick to playing our game. We’ve got to speed them up as much as we can.”

The Mustangs trailed for a good portion of the second half until a 19-10 surge turned a 53-50 deficit into a 69-63 lead with 8:44 to go. Clarke (7-11, 5-7) got within a basket on three occasions down the stretch, but each time Mount Mercy responded with points of its own.

“That is the time that you have to execute,” Strong said. “We kind of got our shooters rolling. We got the ball where we wanted to get it. We like to run. First half might be back and forth, but once you get in that second half and those crunch-time minutes, we like to see if you can finish running with us.”

Mount Mercy leads NAIA Division I in total 3-point baskets (239) and makes over 14 of them per game. Wednesday night, the Mustangs made 10 of 26 attempts. Four came from senior guard Mohammed Albagami, who posted 20 points. Former Cedar Rapids Jefferson prep Dennis McKinney also scored 20 points for Mount Mercy.

Clarke was led by Ernest Bolden Jr. with 24 points.

Men’s basketball

AT HENNESSEY REC CENTER

Mount Mercy 88, Clarke 80

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CLARKE (80): Josh Meier 4-6 2-4 10, Jared Walker 4-10 2-2 10, Darius Lasley 2-9 1-2 5, Keith Johnson 6-14 4-6 19, Ernest Bolden Jr. 11-21 1-2 24, Nick Marshall 1-2 1-2 4, LaVeechie Williams 1-1 0-1 2, Staci Richardson 0-0 0-0 0, Jordan Lake 3-7 0-0 6, AJ Hendrickson 0-1 0-0 0, Totals 32-71 11-19 80.

MOUNT MERCY (88): Dennis McKinney 7-10 5-5 20, Mike Evans 5-11 0-0 11, Antwain Strong 2-4 9-11 13, Emilio Villagrana 2-5 0-0 5, Mohammed Albagami 7-10 2-2 20, Christian Reischauer 2-5 0-2 6, DJ Johnson 5-10 0-2 11, Joseph Kehinde 1-1 0-0 2, Totals 31-56 16-22 88.

Halftime — Clarke, 40-39. Three-point goals — Clarke 5-23 (Johnson 3-8, Marshall 1-2, Bolden Jr. 1-3, Lake 0-2, Lasley 0-4, Walker 0-4); Mount Mercy 10-26 (Albagami 4-7, Reischauer 2-3, McKinney 1-3, Villagrana 1-3, Evans 1-4, Johnson 1-4, Strong 0-2). Rebounds — Clarke 33 (Marshall 9), Mount Mercy 38 (Strong 11). Assists — Clarke 12 (Lasley 5), Mount Mercy 20 (Strong 9). Turnovers — Clarke 14, Mount Mercy 20. Total fouls — Clarke 22, Mount Mercy 16. Fouled out — K. Johnson.

l Comments: douglas.miles@thegazette.com

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