The College of Southern Idaho men’s basketball freshman David Walker drove to the hoop, battled through bodies and made a layup. About 20 seconds later, freshman Jaxon Edelmayer notched a steal and made his own layup.
That little sequence breathed life into the crowd watching on as No. 13 CSI took on No. 7 Salt Lake Community College on Saturday. Not only was it exhilarating in itself, but it was the point at which the Golden Eagles had finally turned a 13-point deficit into a two-point lead, pulling ahead of the Bruins, 82-80.
However, it was the final lead CSI would hold, as Salt Lake reclaimed the lead and didn’t give it up again, holding the Golden Eagles off and handing them a 100-91 loss, breaking an eight-game win streak.
“Salt Lake’s too good a team to get down like we did,” CSI head coach Jared Phay said. “Credit to Salt Lake. They hit big shots and answered our run.”
Little separated the two teams from the opening tip, but there were sparks early.
The Golden Eagles (15-4) started the contest with some long-range sharpshooting, courtesy of sophomores Roberto Gittens and Khalid Thomas.
Gittens opened the game with a triple, then Thomas came off the bench to knock down three straight, pounding his chest and screaming in excitement after each one. Gittens bookended Thomas’ run with another, giving the Golden Eagles a 5-for-5 start from beyond the arc, as well as a 19-13 advantage.
Thomas, a Texas Tech signee, missed nearly all of the season up to this point through injury, and only appeared in two games before Saturday, scoring five total points. Within a couple minutes off the bench, he had nine, and it seemed to energize everyone around him.
“That was good,” Phay said. “Every day we see a little more improvement…It was good to see him look like his old self a little bit.”
With about 14 minutes left in the opening period, CSI extended that lead to 21-14, which was as large as it would get for the Golden Eagles in the first half.
Salt Lake quickly came back, and soon the game began a punch-for-punch boxing match, with neither team giving much room to breathe to the other. However, in the closing stages of the half, the Bruins finally found that breathing room.
The visitors went on a 9-0 run, slightly cut into in the dying stages of the half by a bucket from freshman Jaxon Edelmayer for CSI, to really break away from the Golden Eagles and take a 53-43 lead into halftime.
“Energy just went bad,” Phay said. “Salt Lake’s a really good offensive team, the best offensive team we’ve played. They just kind of broke us down and I think kinda broke our will.”
The fighting spirit remained in the Golden Eagles, though, as they continued to scratch away at the Salt Lake lead, always pulling close but never quite getting there, until those back-to-back baskets by Walker and Edelmayer.
However, Salt Lake answered the call, punching right back at CSI with a triple from Daron Henson. The Golden Eagles did pull to within two again, but it was as close as they’d get, as Josh Colon knocked down two contested triples to seal the deal for the Bruins.
Walker had 16 points, 14 of which came in the second half, while sophomore Malik Porter also had 16. Edelmayer added 14, while Thomas and Gittens added 11 apiece, and Gittens had seven assists.
The eight-game win streak that had built up to Saturday night is now gone. While positives like Thomas’ performance and the will to comeback will be beneficial pieces of Saturday’s loss to look back on, there are still changes and improvements to be made for the Golden Eagles.
“Our mentality has got to be better,” Phay said. “We’d won quite a few games in a row, had a nice winning streak, but we’ve got to realize that, in this league, anybody can beat you if you don’t show up.”