LEVELLAND — Benjamin Bayela scored a team-high 20 points as No. 1 South Plains fended off a late rally from Clarendon to take down the Bulldogs 85-73 Monday night at the Texan Dome.
South Plains improves to 8-0 on the year and 3-0 in the Western Junior College Athletic Conference and will return to the hardwood on Thursday at 6:30 p.m., squaring off with New Mexico Military Institute at the Texan Dome.
"Clarendon gave us everything we wanted," South Plains head coach Steve Green said. "They were very aggressive with the ball and pushed the ball down the floor. We weren't ready and fouled them nearly every time they put the ball on the floor. They definitely gave us something to be concerned about."
Leading 47-31 at the half, the Texans would take their largest lead of the contest when Yuot Gai knocked down a jumper from five feet to give South Plains a 51-31 lead with 18:30 to play. Clarendon would answer with a 13-2 run to cut their deficit to single digits following a pair of free throws from Isaiah Johnson with 15:22 to go to bring the score to 53-44.
The Bulldogs would then get within five, 55-50 as BJ Simmons, who led all scorers with 28 points, connected on a 3 from the right wing with 12:30 to play. Trading buckets over the next nine minutes, Philmon Gebrewhit poured in a trio of free throws to put the Texans back up nine, 75-66 with 3:36 remaining. Jevonnie Scott would then push the Texans lead to 11, 81-70 on a one-handed slam with 1:41 to play.
"We got the lead to 20 in the second half and then started standing around," Green said. "Whatever got us to that lead, we just quit doing it. This is a concern because we're in the middle of the season. If the season was over we'd look back and say we won the game. But we definitely have to get some of these guys attention. And I think Clarendon got some of these guys attention."
South Plains would hold off the Bulldogs in the final 90 seconds, capping the contest with a 44.6 percent shooting clip from the floor. Bayela finished 6 of 11 from the field and was 4 of 8 from distance to go along with 10 boards over 30 minutes. Rivaldo Soares netted 17 points and six rebounds for South Plains, dropping in 7 of 11 shots over 35 minutes.
Scott chipped in 14 points and six rebounds, connecting on 6 of 12 shots from the field, and was 2 of 3 from the 3-point line. Gebrewhit tallied 14 points and three rebounds and finished 8 of 12 from the free throw line coming off the bench for the Texans.
Simmons was 8 of 17 from the floor for Clarendon and bucketed 4 of 8 shots from 3 over 36 minutes. Jakobe Dill netted 17 points and four boards as the Bulldogs shot 40 percent from the floor and 40 percent from distance in the contest.