In a game with few fouls, it’s hard to imagine someone nicknamed “Slinky” dominating, but that’s exactly what Nahowan Saxon did on Saturday night.
Saxon was named the Coaches vs. Cancer Holiday Classic men’s Most Valuable Player after Columbia College’s 61-50 win against Brescia (Ky.) at the Arena of Southwell Complex. Saxon scored a career-high 27 points on 11-of-14 shooting. He also made all five of his field goals in Friday’s 75-47 victory against St. Mary (Kan.).
“We had a good practice coming into this game, and I felt confident,” Saxon said. “I’m getting more confident every day. I’ve been having great practices, and I’m not doubting my performance.”
The Bearcats (5-6) were whistled for 11 fouls despite an unusually physical contest. Cougars coach Bob Burchard said he expected a rough game and was curious to see how his team would respond. He said the Cougars (15-1) were beat up physically in their loss to Lyon (Ark.) on Nov. 15.
“The timing of this game was really good for us,” Burchard said. “I’ve been questioning how we were going to play against a physical team. I was really happy to see how our guys responded.”
Khamari Ballard added 20 points for the No. 15 Cougars, including four 3-pointers. He also made the All-Tournament team.
Burchard has praised the play of substitutes Aaron Edwards and Saxon all season, but he said Brad Hemmer gave the Cougars a huge lift off the bench during the Classic. Hemmer had four assists and three steals on Saturday.
The Cougars continued to assert themselves defensively, forcing 22 Bearcat turnovers.
“We want to make it a goal to come out and not take any plays off this second semester,” Cougars guard Aaron Edwards said. “If we come out and play intense and not take plays off, we’ll be tough.”
The No. 19 Columbia College women’s team lost to No. 14 Georgetown (Ky.) 64-61.
Late in the game, Mindy Mitchem made three clutch plays for the Cougars, but she missed two free throws with 1.6 seconds left and her team down one.
She hit a 3-pointer with 1:05 left to cut the Tigers’ lead to 62-59. On the next possession, Mitchem had a steal that led to a Lisa Kowalewski 10-footer from the right baseline. Kowalewski’s shot put the Cougars down 62-61 with 28 seconds left.
After the Tigers’ Meghan Hillman missed two free throws, LeAnn Fossum missed from just inside the circle. Mitchem rebounded Fossum’s miss and was fouled on her follow-up attempt.
“We played a really bad first half,” Kowalewski said. “(Mitchem’s) free throws didn’t go in, but we all have faith in her that if she got up there another time she’d make both of them. She’s a good free throw shooter.”
Kowalewski and Tiffany Foote were named All-Tournament. Kowalewski also won the Classic’s women’s 3-point contest. Foote, despite standing 5 feet 6 inches, led the Cougars (7-6) with 10 rebounds and 11 assists.
The Tigers (10-4) grabbed 13 offensive rebounds in the first half and slowed the Cougars’ fast-paced style.
“You can’t really get your transition going without the rebounds,” Foote said. “Once we got our rebounds going in the second half, it was easier to push the ball.”
Kowalewski led the Cougars with 17 points. Fossum added 15.
Two other games were played on Saturday. The Evangel women’s team beat William Woods 91-66, and the Missouri Baptist men’s team defeated St. Mary (Kan.) 86-67.