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Men's Basketball - Sat, Feb. 18, 2017 - posted by Seth Preuss
Donny Punter led all scorers with 14 against Biola (Photo by Liza Rosales)
Donny Punter led all scorers with 14 against Biola (Photo by Liza Rosales)
(4)Biola University
(10)Hope International

FULLERTON, CA – No. 10 Hope International hosted No. 4 Biola on Saturday, February 18, in the last-ever regular season meeting between the two teams as conference opponents. The Royals celebrated two seniors as well on Saturday as part of Senior Night and were able to send their seniors out with a win over the Top Five-ranked Eagles in regulation.

Aside from knocking off the No. 4 team in the NAIA, HIU accomplished one other noteworthy feat on Saturday – HIU finished the regular season undefeated on its home court with a 17-0 record in the Darling Pavilion, including six wins at home against teams either ranked or receiving votes in the NAIA Top 25 polls.

The Royals opened the game with a 5-0 lead and continued a hot shooting streak through the first half – the No. 4 Eagles did their best to slow the Royals offensively but were unable to come up with stops in the early stages of the game. HIU worked its way out to a 12-point lead with 6:30 left to play before the half and would hang on to a double-digit lead at the break, 34-24, after finishing the half shooting 56.5% from the field.

The Eagles, ranked fourth in the nation for good reason, made things interesting in the second half after adjusting defensively during the break. The Royals equaled their largest lead of 12 with 16:22 remaining after a triple from Charles Trotter (SO/Slidell, LA), but Biola answered with a trey of its own and cut the lead to single digits – HIU would not lead by double digits again for the rest of the night.

Both teams battled hard on their defensive ends in the second half and combined to prevent a field goal for nearly five straight minutes – neither side made a field goal from 15:22 on until Liam Hunt (JR/San Anselmo, CA) broke the dry spell with a jump hook in the lane at 10:42 to give HIU a 43-34 lead.

The Eagles gave HIU a scare and clawed their way to within three after their reigning GSAC Player of the Year knocked down a midrange jumper to make it 47-44 with 4:35 to play, but the Royals were able to buckle down defensively in the final five minutes and allowed just three points to BU after that made midrange bucket.

Donny Punter (JR/Long Island, NY) hit all but one of his free throws in the closing minutes and Hunt splashed in a pair of shots from the foul line to ice the win in the final minute. The Eagles got two good looks at a triple in the last minute, but HIU was otherwise able to force the ball out of the hands of the Eagles' sharpshooters and made BU settle for open looks from their bigs beyond the arc. HIU pulled out the win after leading from wire to wire in an instant classic that putting a fitting end to the regular-season rivalry.

"Biola is such a good defensively, it's just a grind – our guys just stuck with it and they kept challenging [Biola]," Coach Bill Czech said after the win. "Both teams were off the chart tonight effort-wise, we just made a few more shots, a few more free throws at the end, and our execution at the start of the game was maybe the best ever for us against Biola – they're just a brick wall to get through."

Punter led all scorers with 14 points and dished out five dimes in the win to go with his six rebounds. Hunt was the other Royal to score in double figures with 13 and pulled down six rebounds himself. Josh Smith (SR/National City, CA) got the start in place of Hunt and made three critical blocks to take the air out of Biola's offense in the post during the game to help HIU keep its momentum on the home hardwood.

The Royals snap a three-game losing streak to Biola with the win and improve to 22-6 overall with an 11-3 mark in the GSAC for sole possession of first place in the standings – HIU is a half-game in front of Biola and The Master's and a full game in front of Westmont with the win. HIU controls its own destiny now with a chance to lock up the regular season GSAC title if it can win out against Menlo and William Jessup on the road next weekend.

M - Basketball
Overall GSAC Streak
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