In the Horizon League, everyone is chasing the high-powered Valparaiso Crusaders for top spot in the standings. Friday night saw the two teams who have the best shot at catching the Crusaders facing off against one another, as the Cleveland State Vikings paid a visit to the Green Bay Phoenix.
Both teams entered Friday night’s match-up with identical 10 – 3 records in Horizon League play, and were just a game back of the Valparaiso Crusaders. With Valparaiso off on Friday night, the winner of Cleveland State – Green Bay would move just a half-game behind the Crusaders, and claim second place in the standings on their own.
Green Bay had a chance to win on Friday night in the dying seconds, but were unable to take the lead. Missing that second free throw with just 32 seconds to go would come back to haunt the Phoenix. Cleveland State needed overtime, but the Vikings were able to come away with the 66 – 61 road win over Green Bay in extra time.
Both teams would start the game strong from the field, as both the Vikings and the Phoenix made two of their first three field goal attempts. Trey Lewis and Charlie Lee would each make three-pointers for the Vikings, as they raced out to a 10 – 6 lead before the first media timeout.
For the Green Bay Phoenix, Keifer Sykes and Jordan Fouse were kept in check for most of the first half. Fouse scored the first two points of the game, and didn’t find the scoreboard for the rest of the half. Sykes didn’t find the scoreboard at all until 2:41 mark.
Even with Fouse and Sykes being held in check by the Cleveland State Vikings defense, the Phoenix were still right in the thick of things in the half. Greg Mays recorded 12 points to carry the Phoenix through the first half. Sykes scored the team’s last five points of the half, to enter the break with some personal positive momentum, as well as sending his team into the break riding a high.
Cleveland State had the lead for the majority of the first half, but weren’t able to take it into the break. Trey Lewis closed out the half with a three pointer for the Vikings, but Green Bay held a slim 33 – 32 lead after the first 20 minutes of play.
Anton Grady scored four quick points for the Vikings, and Cleveland State took a three-point lead just 1:19 into the half.
As the half would play on, the teams would continue to trade the lead. Green Bay would take a five-point lead shortly after Cleveland State’s hot start, only to have the Vikings bounce right back and quickly erase the lead.
With less than five minutes to play in regulation, Greg Mays would connect on a three-pointer to give the Phoenix a six point lead. It looked like somebody was finally going to pull away and seize control of the game, but to no avail. Back game the Vikings, with Trey Lewis and Anton Grady scoring four points each to put Cleveland State in front by two.
With 1:22 to go, Charlie Lee made a three-pointer to put Cleveland State ahead by three, before Keifer Sykes cut the deficit to one. With just 32 seconds on the clock, Carrington Love found himself at the free throw line for the Phoenix, with the chance to put his team ahead. He only made one of two free throws, and the game was tied at 55 – all.
Both teams would miss last-second attempts, and the game was off to overtime.
In the extra frame, it was all Cleveland State. Thanks to some strong free throw shooting from the Vikings, the Phoenix were outscored 11 – 6 in the overtime period. Phoenix fans were left wondering what could have been, as they had the chance to win the game with Love at the free throw line.
Cleveland State came away with the 66 – 61 win, and found themselves alone in second place in the Horizon League standings.
For the visiting Cleveland State Vikings, two players cracked the 20-point plateau in the win. Trey Lewis scored a game-high 21 points, while Anton Grady scored 20 points of his own to lead the Vikings to victory.
For the hometown Green Bay Phoenix, Keifer Sykes bounced back after his slow start to put up 18 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists in the loss. Greg Mays scored a team-high 19 points, but it wasn’t enough to lead his team to victory.
Jordan Fouse was held in check for the entire game, managing only 4 points on 2-of-6 shooting from the field.
The win put the Cleveland State Vikings (17 – 11, 11 – 3) alone in second place in the conference standings, just a half game behind Valparaiso. They will look to keep their winning ways going on Sunday when they visit the Milwaukee Panthers.
The loss sent the Green Bay Phoenix (21 – 7, 10 – 4) down to third place in the conference, and resulted in a season sweep at the hands of the Vikings. They will look to bounce back on Thursday night when they take on the Illinois-Chicago Flames.