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Southwest Bears prevail over Miss. Delta

Avenging an early-season home loss to Mississippi Delta, the Bears traveled to Moorhead Monday night and came away with an 84-73 win over the Trojans in the 2016 opener for both teams.

The win moved the Bears to 6-4 on the season while the Trojans dropped to 8-2.

The Bears hit nine three pointers, seven of them coming from Lafayette Rutledge, in taking a 55-34 lead after the first half. Back-to-back treys from Rutledge and one from Emanuel Thompson put the Bears on top 29-12 with 12:17 on the clock.

Rutledge’s sixth three of the half, with 3:18 remaining, gave the Bears their largest lead at that point, 52-28. The Trojans then scored six of the half’s final nine points to leave the Bears with their 21-point lead.

Outscoring the Trojans 6-2 to open the second half, the Bears took a 61-36 lead with 16:58 to play in the game. Later in the half, an 11-0 run by the hosts narrowed the Bears’ lead to 71-60 with 6:00 left to play. Four Bryce Baker free throws and a Terrell Miller jumper then made the score 77-62 with 4:25 to go.

Determined not to go quietly, the Trojans went on an 11-3 run to pull back to within seven points, 80-73, with 0:18 showing on the clock. But, it was too little, too late as the Bears hit four free throws to seal the win.

Bears’ head coach Thomas Gray said “being off three weeks” and “having five practices in three days” after coming back from the holiday break attributed to his team’s second-half slump against the Trojans. But, he said, “Our guys showed some grit and some mental toughness to hold on. I’m proud of our guys for fighting and staying the course.”

Rutledge led all scorers with 28 points, including 8-11 from three-point range.

“Lafayette is a special player and a special young man,” said Gray. “He had a game (tonight) that I hope a lot of four-year coaches will take notice (of). He’s been doing this night in and night out, making big shots for us (and) shooting the ball extremely well (and) being a leader on both ends of the floor.”

Miller and Rodrick Barnes were also in double figures with 10 points apiece. Guy Johnson recorded six assists. The Bears made good on 21 of 29 free throws.

After taking a few days off, the Bears return to action on January 11 with a home matchup against MACJC South Division foe Meridian. Tipoff is set for 7:15.