So close yet so far

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In an uphill battle that went into double overtime, APU clawed their way back into a game that seemed out of reach against Young Harris. However, after the extended scrappy battle was settled, Young Harris ended up on top, with the score of 100-96.

The first and second halves were two different stories. The key similarity, however, was the Cougars having to play catch up with the Mountain Lions the majority of both halves. The reason for this was the Mountain Lions were capitalizing on their chances while the Cougars were not. Another similarity between the halves was the Cougars pushed late in each half. After playing enough catch up, the Cougars eventually caught up and tied it at the end of regulation.

The Cougars’ defense is what kept them in the game. Cougar head coach Justin Leslie explained that the defense had to work twice as hard on Friday night because the decisions made on the offense were not the best. The offensive effort was not clicking the same way that it was in past weeks.

“They’re a confident bunch, and they’ll find ways to go out and score,” Leslie said. “We just need them to be efficient when they do it. Troy [Leaf] played really well, but his easy looks weren’t there and he had to work very hard for his 30 points. With a young team, we didn’t pick our spots very well offensively tonight — there were a lot more easy baskets to be had that we just didn’t get. We didn’t have a great game offensively, and that really put our defense in some tough spots tonight.”

As Leslie mentioned, sophomore undeclared major and guard Leaf scored 30 points on the night, shooting nine of 19 from the court, going nine for nine from the foul line, grabbing seven boards and dishing out six assists for the game. Senior guard and sociology major B.J. Porter scored 19 points, shooting seven of 16 from the court and adding two takeaways.

Among all Cougar performances, freshman forward and sociology major Sharif Watson’s performance kept his team in the mix and his key defensive stops brought the energy that was needed to take APU into double overtime. Watson scored 10 points off the bench, shooting four of five from the court, grabbed 12 boards, five of those being offensive rebounds, blocked three shots and stole the ball twice. His energy sparked the Cougars’ late-game effort to rally and tie the game.

“Sharif completely changed the game with his blocked shots, rebounding and hustle plays, and we’d have lost in regulation if he hadn’t come into the game and impacted us defensively the way he did,” Leslie said. “That was a big step in the right direction for him, and we just need to find out how to get that more consistently from him.”

Despite the Cougars’ huge defensive effort, Young Harris’ offensive attack was too much for APU’s defense to handle. Senior business administration and public policy double major and guard Malcolm Jackson set a school record of points scored in a game with 38 points. Junior biology major and guard Frank Adams scored 22 points, and junior communication studies major and guard Vince Martin earned a double-double as he scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Young Harris played their starters for the majority of the game as they managed to make an array of difficult shots throughout the length of the extended game.

“We struggled to get stops at all, and they were scoring way too easy,” Leslie said. “We let them do whatever they wanted in the first half, and even though I felt the quality of shots they took went down in the second half, they just made some huge shots. For them to play as many minutes as they did and stay effective was impressive.”

After Friday night’s tough loss, APU is 2-2. On Saturday, Dec. 1, the Cougars will be kicking off their Pacific West Conference play as they visit Point Loma Nazarene University.