Eagles can secure first place

The Eagles come home this week with a chance to do something not even the 2005 National Championship team did. They can clinch the SAC regular season title.

The Golden Eagles will face Wayland Baptist on Thursday and Lubbock Christian on Saturday, both at home.

Coming off a close win at Oklahoma City, JBU is 2.5 games up on second place Oklahoma Baptist and three games up on Mid-America Christian.

The Eagles’ magic number to clinch the regular season conference crown and the automatic NAIA tournament bid that comes with it is two. That means if JBU wins or OBU loses two games, the conference title will be officially John Brown’s.

But as far as head coach Clark Sheehy is concerned, the team is preparing for games the same way they would if they were fighting for a spot in the tournament.

“Where our players have done a good job is staying focused on the game right in front of us,” Sheehy said. “The conference race is exciting, but that’s got to be an afterthought.”

A conference title would mean a No. 1 seed in the conference tournament in Shawnee, Okla, and an automatic bid in the NAIA national tournament in Kansas City.

On Thursday the Eagles will look to get payback for their only conference loss thus far, an 84-70 road defeat to Wayland Baptist. Since that loss, the Eagles have gone 4-0, winning by an average of 10 points per game. WBU, on the other hand, has struggled, going 1-3 with its lone win being over winless St. Gregory’s.

In order to avoid another upset JBU will have to contain Reggie Fondren, who had a season-high 30 points in the Pioneers win over the Eagles.

The Eagles had prepared for Fondren assuming he was going to the bulk of his scoring in the paint off of drives but instead he went 7-7 on three-pointers.

“We’ve got to guard him a little more traditionally and understand he can do both,” Sheehy said. “They did a really good job of getting really easy shots [last game] and [this game] we’ve got to … make them earn their shots.”

The Eagles are coming off a close win over Oklahoma City last Saturday. The team edged the Stars 66-62 after junior guard Terry Johnson missed a three-point attempt to tie with six seconds left.

The Eagles came out swinging to start the game, going on a 20-6 run out of the gate thanks to four 3-pointers. The Stars then went on a run of their own and went into halftime with a 35-33 lead.

After the Eagles took a 10-point lead early in the second half, OCU answered again and the game was close the rest of the way. The Golden Eagles took the lead for good when EJ McWoods hit two free throws with 1:29 to play. Both teams traded free throws the rest of the way until the Stars got the ball with 10 seconds left trailing by three. When Johnson missed his three, junior forward Kurtis Phillips got the rebound and after being fouled hit one of two free throws to seal the win.

On Saturday JBU will host 6-6 Lubbock Christian, whom the Golden Eagles beat 72-71 on Jan. 24.