SPRING ARBOR, Mich. – After trailing late in the second half, the Spring Arbor University men’s basketball team rallied back in the final minutes to defeat Alma College 63-61 in front of an energetic crowd inside the SAU Fieldhouse on Tuesday night.
Sophomore Thomas Starks buried a three-pointer with 43 seconds remaining to tie the game before junior Xavier Prather drove to the basket and sank an acrobatic layup with 2.6 seconds left to keep the Cougars unbeaten.
Prather led the way with 14 points followed by freshman Zach Medendorp with 13. Junior Greg Hamilton and sophomore Caleb Hogans added 12 apiece while Starks collected a game-high 11 rebounds.
The first half proved to be very tight seeing five ties and seven lead changes. Alma (0-1) came charging out of the gates hitting 56 percent of its shots, including five three-pointers to stay close with the red-hot Cougars through the first 20 minutes.
With five minutes to play in the opening period and the score tied 26-26, a 6-0 Spring Arbor run gave the home team its largest lead of the game. Alma would trim the deficit to one with less than a minute to go before halftime, but Prather – with a glimpse of things to come – hit a driving layup just before the buzzer to give SAU a 36-33 lead at the break.
In the second half, Spring Arbor pushed its lead back to six, 44-38, at the 11:52 mark, but the Scots refused to go away. Alma would hit three triples to fuel a 16-5 run to grab a 54-49 advantage with 5:16 remaining in the contest.
Trailing by five with less than two minutes to play, the Cougars would end the game on a 7-0 run to complete the dramatic come-from-behind victory. Prather hit a jumper in the paint to narrow the gap to two at the 1:51 mark.
After the Scots missed a pair of free throws, Starks would knock down a huge three to knot the score at 61-61. With 13 seconds left, Alma would have a chance to retake the lead at the charity stripe, but, again, would miss both attempts, setting the stage for Prather’s heroics.
Alma finished the night shooting 46 percent (22-for-48) from the field – hitting 11 three-pointers – while Spring Arbor shot 36 percent (20-for-55). The difference came at the free throw line where the Cougars would convert on 20 of 33 attempts compared to the Scots, who got to the stripe 13 times and made just six shots. The Cougars also held a commanding edge on the glass, out-rebounding the visitors 41-28.
Up next, Spring Arbor (6-0) will visit Rochester College, who is receiving votes in the NAIA Top 25 Poll, on Friday, Nov. 21. Game time is set for 7 p.m.