Facing a former three-time national champion just four days after a flat performance should have been a daunting task for the Angelina College Roadrunners.
But a key defensive substitution and a big night from Lamont Mack put the ‘Runners back on the winning track.
Mack scored 28 points, pulled down 10 rebounds, swiped four steals and dished three assists to lead AC past Independence (KS) 86-76 Thursday night in Dallas.
The ‘Runners (2-1) also got 16 points and three blocks from Ashton Hall, and 11 points and four boards from Tristan Worrell. And in contrast to Saturday's miserable 16 of 34 performance from the free-throw line, AC hit 28 of 35 freebies, including seven of their final eight to seal the win.
Independence got 10 points from point guard Leonard Parker, whose totals included a 4-of-6 effort from three-point land and eight assists. Rico Seay led the Pirates with 23 points.
Despite all the offense, it was a defensive substitution late in the first half that helped turn a hard-fought game more toward the ‘Runners favor. Reginald "Harpo" Williams, a former Defensive Player of the Year in Charlotte, N.C., entered with just over three minutes left before the break and the score tied at 32-32. Williams proceeded to put a choke hold on the Pirate's offense, and the result was a 10-0 AC run that helped the ‘Runners break out of an offensive mini-slump.
"Harpo is a defensive specialist, pure and simple," coach Todd Neighbors said. "He wreaks a ton of havoc on our own players in practice. It's good to have a guy like that who can cause that much disruption for an opposing offense."
That offensive surge carried over into the second half, albeit in fits and starts. Neighbors attributed the lack of consistency to players learning to work together.
"I think when we do a lot of subbing, we get guys who aren't used to playing together," Neighbors said. "It tends to disrupt the fluidity of our offense. Our sophomores have played together long enough to know what to expect, but when we add some of our freshmen, they're still learning their roles along with those of the others."
The Roadrunners will travel to Port Arthur Saturday to take on Lamar-PA. Game time is set for 7 p.m.