Posted: Saturday, 16 February 2013 10:28PM

Panthers clinch GLVC West Title, Hesser Hospitalized



Springfield, Il. -- Brandon Lockhart scored 18 points to lead three Panthers in double-figures and No. 18 Drury clinched its fifth Great Lakes Valley Conference West Division title with a 68-54 victory at Illinois-Springfield on Saturday afternoon.

The Panthers' 11th consecutive victory pushed their records to 19-4 overall and 13-2 in the GLVC, and came without the services of head coach Steve Hesser, who spent Saturday in a Quincy, Ill., hospital being treated for pneumonia. Hesser, who was admitted to the hospital a few hours after Thursday night's win at Quincy, is expected to remain hospitalized for another day or two.
 
In his absence, assistant coach Ja Havens stepped in and guided the Panthers to the victory, as Drury pulled out of a 32-all halftime tie with the Prairie Stars courtesy of yet another dominant second-half performance.

The Panthers held UIS to just 13 points over the first 17 minutes of the second half to roll to the win, the 11 straight the most for a DU team in their nine seasons under Hesser.

"I'm really proud of our guys and the effort they brought in the second half," said Havens. "Saturday games in the GLVC are really a test of will, and we made a lot of hustle plays in the second half after coming out a little flat in the first half.

"Our defense, I thought in the second half, was very solid, and I thought we also did an excellent job on the boards."

Lockhart added five rebounds, four steals and three assists to his 18 points, while Alex Hall added 13 points and Ian Carter had 10. Hall went 1 for 8 from the field (and 0 for 6 from 3-point range) while being the focus of UIS' defensive efforts after averaging 28.3 points over his last three games, but went 11 for 12 at the free-throw line and added eight rebounds and six assists in his 37 minutes.

"Alex did a tremenous job of getting to the line several times, and that's where we want him," Havens said.

Drury finished with a 36-25 rebounding advantage, with Carter and Cameron Adams supporting Hall's efforts with six each.

The Panthers, who had 11 turnovers at halftime, had just three in the second half to finish with 14. Illinois-Springfield turned it over 11 times in the second half to finish with 19.

Drury, the GLVC leader in FG percentage defense at 39 percent coming in, limited the Prairie Stars to 7-for-22 shooting (32 percent) in the second half and 40 percent (20 of 49) for the game.

Havens admitted his "head was spinning" early in the game in what was his impromptu collegiate head coaching debut, but then added that this victory was made possible by Hesser's body of work.

"I told our guys this win was a credit to Coach Hesser for the way he always has them prepared to face whatever we were going to see," Havens said.

West Dawson had 14 points to lead UIS (7-16, 5-10).

The Panthers return to the O'Reilly Family Event Center for their regular season finale on Thursday night, when they play host to William Jewell in a 7:45 p.m. tipoff that represents Senior Night festivities for Hall, Lockhart and Teddy Simniok.

Drury's 11 consecutive wins are the second-most by a Panthers' team since the move to the NCAA-II level in 1994-95, trailing only the 15 consecutive triumphs by Gary Stanfield's 2003-04 squad that ended with a loss in the NCAA-II Sweet 16.

The Panthers' latest GLVC West title joins those captured by DU in 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2011.

"We grabbed a share of the West title today, but we are not done," Havens said. "It's an accomplishment, but we have a lot of opportunities ahead of us."

The Panthers eagerly await Wednesday's upcoming announcement of the first NCAA-II Midwest Region rankings for the season.

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