SHREVEPORT, La. - The Gents scored seven unanswered late in the first half and used hot shooting (13-for-25, 52 percent) in the second period to take an early lead in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference standings as Centenary (8-4, 2-0 SCAC) knocked off the three-time defending Conference Tournament Champion Texas Lutheran (4-8, 0-1 SCAC) 71-66 Friday night, January 5.
The Gents used the run to race out to a 35-30 at half and are 6-0 on the year when leading at the break this season.
Tied at 25 - the seventh and last even score of the game - Centenary tallied seven unanswered to break open a close game. Sophomore Cedric Harris hit a jumper and then hit a three off an assist from freshman Raylon Hardy. Senior Travion Kirkendoll then grabbed his second-straight steal on as many defensive possessions and finished the layup to push the Gents lead to seven with 4:24 left in the half.
Kirkendoll, the SCAC leader in thefts with 2.9 per game, scored 19 points and added five rebounds and four steals. Harris contributed 16 points.
Texas Lutheran cut an 11-point deficit down to one and had the ball with less than 30 seconds. However, junior Mitchell Tarantolo swatted the layup attempt into the hands of classmate Kaharri Carter with three seconds left. Carter made both from the charity stripe after being fouled, and the Bulldogs threw the home run-pass attempt out of bounds without a touch.
Tarantolo iced the game when he was fouled on the inbounds and made both free throws. Texas Lutheran failed to get off a shot attempt and Centenary claimed the five-point win. Tarantolo finished the game with a career-best six blocks.
Centenary got out and ran to the tune of a 15-6 edge in fastbreak points for the game - including 13-0 in the first half alone. However, the Bulldogs countered with a 38-31 rebounding edge and a 14-6 lead in second-chance points.
The Maroon and White led 46-41 with 13:40 remaining before jumpers by Kirkendoll and junior Treylan Matthews to push the lead to nine. Texas Lutheran responded with a pair of three-pointers, but Carter and Harris answered with their own treys for the Gents. Tarantolo pushed the Centenary advantage to double-digits when he slipped a defender and Matthews found him for the easy layup.
Matthews finished the game with nine points, five rebounds, and five assists against just one turnover.
Texas Lutheran trailed 63-56 with 4:38 left, but the Bulldogs hit their next 3-of-4 from three to cut the deficit to one. Matt Perry made one from behind the arc, but Kirkendoll answered with a layup for the Gents. Perry responded with another triple and Shawn Hamilton split from the line to cut the Gents advantage to two.
Matthews hit a jumper for Centenary, but an Alex Cage triple cut the lead to 67-66 with 1:33 left. Both teams came up empty on their next possessions, and a Gents missed three gave Texas Lutheran the ball, down by one, with the shot clock off. However, Tarantolo came up with the block and the Gents made all four from the line to seal the win.
Nathan Josephs was the only Bulldog with double-digit points, finishing with 19 points, five assists, and four rebounds.
Centenary returns to action Sunday, January 7, when it hosts Southwestern at noon.