Wildcats score another big SCAC victory

Taka Hall
Taka Hall

DENVER – All five Wildcat starters scored in double figures to lead the Johnson & Wales University men's basketball team to a 97-95 win over visiting Southwestern on Saturday night at the Wildcat Center.

Senior guard Andrew Romero III led the charge with 34 points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals as JWU Denver (16-6, 9-4) won for the seventh time in the past eight games. JWU's 16 wins are now the third-most in a single season in program history, trailing only the 2009-10 team that won 17 games and the 2016-17 team that won 18 games. 

The Wildcats moved into second place in the SCAC standings and posted their second straight win over a fellow league title contender. With three games left on the slate, JWU now trails only Texas Lutheran (13-7, 8-3), who the Wildcats beat on Friday.

Bailey Stephens (17 points), Jontrell Herman (14), Dakota Patton (13) and King Grant-Perry each posted double-digit scoring efforts as the Wildcats exploded for their highest-scoring effort in league play.

A rough start by JWU put the Wildcats in a 14-point hole midway through the first half, but coach Quintin Grogan's team steadily chipped away and found themselves trailing by just two points at the break, 45-43.

The two teams traded jabs to open the second half before JWU was able to build an eight-point lead on a layup by Grant-Perry (Cleveland) with 10:33 to go. The Pirates regained the lead with 6:05 to play, but the Wildcats responded with an 8-0 run soon after to take the lead for good – a run that included free throws by Patton (Loveland, Colo.), a 3 by Romero III (Northglenn, Colo.) and layup by Grant-Perry.

"We just have to keep going, keep sticking to what we do – defend and rebound," said sophomore guard Jalen Scandrett, who helped clinched the win when he tipped a loose ball away following a missed free throw by Southwestern in the closing seconds. "Winning this (league championship) the first year would be so great for our seniors. We've got so many seniors, and I'd love for them to go out on top."

Although they're not eligible for postseason play as a Year 1 NCAA Division III provisional member, the Wildcats would've clinched a spot in the SCAC conference championship with Saturday's victory as the top six teams in the league earn a spot.