By Chris Schmidbauer, Sports Information Director
Circleville, OH -- A short handed #20 Owens Express squad used a strong second half to garner their 14th consecutive victory and beat Sinclair 87-70 to advance to tomorrow's District 11 Tournament Final against Cuyahoga.
Owens and Sinclair both had a solid first half. The Tartan Pride led the game at the break 39-37. Sinclair was able to take advantage of some early foul trouble by the Express and they were able to control the paint early on. The Express at one point trailed by as many as nine points with 5:17 to play in the opening half after a Quantes Jackson layup for Sinclair. Owens would close the half on a 14-7 run to trail by just two at the break.
The second half was a different story. The Tartan Pride would make the first basket of the half, but Owens would take their first lead in the game, since it was 3-2, on a layup from Julian Egbo with 18:31 to play. In total, the Express would reel off an 18-5 run over the next four minutes to take a nine point lead in the game on a pair of Justin Sylver free throws. Owens would outscore Sinclair 50-31 for the half, which helped them secure the 17 point margin of victory.
Four Owens players would finish in double figures scoring wise, led by sophomore Marquevious Wilson. Wilson would score 24 points on 7-11 shooting from the floor and a scorching 4-7 from three. He drained three of those triples in just a two minute stretch in the second half. He was also perfect from the free throw line at 8-8. He would also grab five rebounds on the evening.
Freshman Gabe Simpson was hot on his heels with a balanced stat line. Simpson scored 21 points on 9-15 shooting. He also had six rebounds and tied for the team lead in assists with Jamiri Bennett at five. Dru Pettigrew was a key contributor off the bench. Pettigrew would finish with 17 points in 32 minutes on 5-9 shooting and he nailed three of five threes.
Julian Egbo did the dirty work, claiming a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds on the night in 32 minutes of work. It is the sophomore's fourth double-double of the season.
For the game, Owens shot a very efficient 52.7% (29-55) for the game. They shot 62.7% over the game's final twenty minutes, missing just nine total shots in the second half. Sinclair shot 44.8% (26-58) from the floor over 40 minutes of play.
Owens is now 23-5 overall on the season and the victory was their 14th win in a row. This ties them for the longest win streak since the 2005-2006 season. The Express's win streak started back on January 10th, ironically against Sinclair. The Express beat the Tartan Pride that night 89-63 on the road. Owens has not lost a basketball game in two months. The longest win streak in program history is 31 games, which carried over two seasons from December 12, 1992 - December 17, 1993.
The Express will go for 15 wins tomorrow afternoon when they face #1 ranked Cuyahoga in the District Final. Cuyahoga and Owens split the season series with each team winning on their home floor. The Challengers won back on November 19 of last year, when they beat the Express 79-61, while the Express handed Cuyahoga their only loss of the season back on January 31 when they won 78-71. Tip off time for the District 11 title is scheduled for 3:00 PM from the Maxwell Center on the campus of Ohio Christian University.
- Julian Egbo had a bit of a homecoming of sorts today. Egbo was a member of the Ohio Christian University basketball program last season, before transferring to Owens for his sophomore season. Egbo played limited minutes for the Crusaders a year ago, only appearing in 13 total games a year ago. He averaged 1.8 points and 2.2 rebounds per game.
- Should Owens be victorious tomorrow, it will be the 40th of Dennis Springs's head coaching career and his head coaching tenure at Owens. Since taking over for former coach Dave Clarke on December 16, 2016, Springs is 39-10.