Slow start finally gets to Fresno Pacific men’s basketball team

Fresno Pacific and Matt Samuels, driving against Hawaii Hilo’s C.J. Brown on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013, will play in the consolation final at the NCCAA national championships on Saturday. (CRAIG KOHLRUSS/THE FRESNO BEE)

Slow starts lately plagued the Fresno Pacific men’s basketball team, and that was a concern for Sunbirds coach Chris Wright. But usually the Sunbirds would kick-start in the second half and end up winning.

That sort of happened Thursday, but the outcome was different this time.

Shorter (Ga.) jumped out to a 28-12 lead in the first half en route to to a 104-95 victory over the Sunbirds in the National Christian College Athletic Association Tournament semifinal in Winona Lake, Ind.

“Started slow again,” Fresno Pacific coach Chris Wright said. “We couldn’t get over the hump.”

The Hawks built a 54-39 halftime lead, but the Sunbirds went on a 11-0 run to open the second half and later cut Shorter lead to 54-50. The Hawks then took control with 12:52 left in the half on a pair of free-throws by Dedric Ware for a 65-54 lead.

Sunbirds guard John Taylor, coming off a 50 point outing against Roberts Wesleyan, was in foul trouble all game and Malcolm Griffin did all he could finishing with a game-high 29 points and 10 rebounds. Taylor chipped in with 27 points and Matt Samuels added 16.

“Our guys battled hard,” Wright said. “But you can’t spot a good team with 14 points in the first 6 minutes and recover easily.”

The Hawks, who will play for the national title on Saturday, had all five starters score in double figures, led by Anthony Banks who finished with 28 points.

The Sunbirds (21-8) will play for the consolation championship against the loser of No. 2 Cedarville and No. 3 Oklahoma Christian at 7 a.m. PDT Saturday.