By BLAKE TOPPMEYER
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
Count Rodney Watson among the believers in the Wisconsin-Parkside men's basketball team.
The Southern Indiana coach could only offer up praise after he watched the Rangers beat the Screaming Eagles 76-72 in overtime Saturday in Evansville, Ind.. That completed Wisconsin-Parkside's season sweep of USI.
The Rangers (16-5, 11-2) now have a two-game lead for first place in the Great Lakes Valley Conference's East Division over Bellarmine, USI and Indianapolis. This comes from a Parkside squad that was ranked in a tie for sixth in the East in the GLVC's preseason coaches poll.
Parkside already has secured its first winning season since going 16-11 in 2007-08, and it now seeks its second Division II Tournament berth in program history.
"They're a veteran team," Watson told the Evansville Courier & Press after Saturday's game. "They have a lot of confidence in each other."
The Rangers didn't lack for confidence down the stretch. With 18 seconds remaining in regulation, Bryant Smith drained a deep 3-pointer to tie the game at 65 and force overtime.
After USI staked an early overtime lead, Colt Grandstaff gave Parkside the lead for good after his layup with 29 seconds remaining put the Rangers ahead 74-72. Smith and Grandstaff, a pair of juniors, had 17 points each for the Rangers, who have won six straight and improved to 3-0 in overtime games this season.
"We never give in and different guys keep stepping up," Rangers coach Luke Reigel said in a press release on the Parkside athletic website. "I sound like a broken record, but we continue to find a way to win."
Turning into a runaway: The Drury men's race to the finish for first place in the West Division is turning into a casual victory stroll.
Alex Hall's 8-of-16 3-point shooting and 30 points helped the Panthers steamroll second-place Maryville 86-64 on Saturday in Springfield, Mo.
Drury (17-4, 11-2) will take a nine-game winning streak into Thursday's game against Quincy at Pepsi Arena. The Panthers have a two-game lead over Maryville for first place. In its two games against Maryville this season, Drury won by a combined 63 points.
The Panthers are 9-0 against West foes, with an average margin of victory of 25.7 points per game.
With a West Division title all but wrapped up, the Panthers have turned their attention toward a bigger ambition.
"We set a goal as a team of hosting the regionals here, to have a home crowd and play on our home floor, and that's our goal right now," Hall told the Springfield News-Leader after Saturday's win.
Wesleyan continues to tumble: Kentucky Wesleyan's farewell tour in the Great Lakes Valley Conference has been no joyous ride.
After starting the season 14-0, the KWC men now face the very real possibility of missing the NCAA Division II Tournament.
Lewis beat the No. 23-ranked Panthers 67-64 on Saturday at Owensboro, Ky., handing KWC its sixth loss in its last seven games.
KWC coach Todd Lee isn't taking a silver lining to his team's recent struggles.
"Experience is what you get when you don't get what you want," Lee told the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer. "We're getting a lot of experience right now."
The Panthers will depart the GLVC after this season for the Great Midwest Athletic Conference.
Drury women suffer a heartbreaker: In a season in which very little has gone right for the Drury women, Saturday's 54-53 home loss to Maryville might take the top prize.
The Panthers, who dropped to 10-11 overall and 4-9 in the GLVC after being picked to win the West in the preseason coaches poll, squandered a lead that stood at 52-41 with 4:21 remaining. A late technical on Drury senior guard Marla Munsen helped Maryville's cause.
Munsen stole the ball from Maryville's Shelby Miller with six seconds remaining and Drury leading 53-51. Miller fouled Munsen with 4.1 seconds to play, but Munsen also was given a technical for, according to a game report on Drury's website, flinging her arm toward Miller while pulling the ball away.
Officials reviewed the replay for about four minutes before Munsen missed a pair of free throws. Miller then made 1 of 2 free throws to make it a one-point game. Because of the technical, Maryville got possession on the baseline and inbounded to an open Abby Duethman, who was fouled with three seconds remaining. She made both free throws to secure the win.
"If we'd have played smart on our offensive end and defensive end, it wouldn't come down to that," Drury senior guard Katie Pritchard told the Springfield News-Leader after the game.
Drury coach Steve Harold declined comment afterward, according to the News-Leader.
The controversy overshadowed a remarkable game by Miller, who scored a career-high 35 points and set a Maryville program record with 10 3-pointers, doing so in just 13 attempts. Maryville remains two games behind Quincy for first place in the West.
Weekly honors: Drury's Hall was named the GLVC Men's Basketball Player of the Week on Monday. In a pair of wins last week, Drury averaged 30 points per game and combined for 14-of-23 shooting (60.9 percent) from 3-point range. This is Hall's second weekly honor of the season and third of his career.
Indianapolis junior forward Katy McIntosh was named the Women's Basketball Player of the Week. Reinhart averaged 21 points, six assists and 5.5 rebounds in a pair of Indy wins last week. During the week, she also scored her 1,000th career point. This is the second time this season McIntosh has claimed the weekly honor.