Fullerton, CA- After learning of their first ever NAIA ranking earlier in the day, #16 Hope International beat Arizona Christian 71-51 on Tuesday to push their winning streak to 13 games. Junior Jeremy Kilgore scored a game high 20 points. Senior Orlando Collins produced a game of 12 points and 14 rebounds for his GSAC leading seventh double-double of the season.
Like he has done four or five times prior, Kilgore received a pass from Freshman Garrett Neilan just after the opening tip and laid in the first two points of the game just seconds into the contest.
The Royals (18-1, 3-0 GSAC) built a 6-2 before the Firestorm (12-3, 2-1 GSAC) responded with a 6-0 run to move ahead 8-6.
Despite both teams really going in a shooting funk for the better part of about eight minutes, HIU moved to the top side of the score with a 7-0 run of their own. Kilgore and Neilan both scored two points and Senior Kris Rosales added three points (layup and made free throw) during the stretch that ultimately gave Hope International the lead for good in the contest.
A dunk from Collins in the closing seconds of the half gave the Royals a 21 point edge- their largest of the half.
With the score 41-20 at the break, Kilgore almost outscored the Firestorm by himself as he delivered 15 first half points.
After the recess, Kilgore drained a three pointer to push HIU ahead by 24 points- their biggest lead of the contest.
However, the Firestorm proved why they are "26" in the country (the team receiving the most votes not in the top 25). Over the next five and half minutes, they used a 16-4 run to cut their deficit in half. In fact, they would close the gap into single digits on three different occasions to strike a little doubt into the outcome.
But HIU shut the door defensively and outscored ACU 11-0 in the final two and half minutes to seal the win.
Rosales converted 11 points in the second half to finish second in the game with 18 points. He also passed eight assists.
Sophomore Austin Sanford ended the night with 15 points.
Kilgore commented about the four Royals in double figures with this statement, "Everyone on team is focused and we are coming to play. We pride ourselves on our defense- to be the best we can. We just play non-selfish basketball to do whatever it takes to get a win- no matter who scores."
Head Coach Bill Czech stated, "Arizona Christian is a great team ranked 26 in the NAIA. We were happy with the start. Our guys brought a lot of energy into the game and played with a lot of fight. We are extremely appreciative of the crowd which was one of the biggest in the last few years. It was good to see former players, staff, faculty, and our Vice President and President in the crowd. Guys worked hard in the off season- especially Jeremy, Kris, and Austin- and it showed tonight."
On Saturday, the Royals will travel to Santa Barbara to meet up with the other unbeaten in GSAC play- Westmont. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 pm.