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Arkansas-Fort Smith beats Newman in battle for first

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, at 8:12 p.m.

Leading Newman 69-68 with just under four minutes left in the second half on Saturday, Arkansas-Fort Smith put the ball in the hands of Jake Toupal, a skinny, 6-foot-3 junior guard out of Broken Arrow, Okla.

Toupal, with close-cropped red hair and an ‘aw shucks’ attitude, proved up to the task.

“I didn’t even know what I did until just now,” Toupal said. “I’m just trying to make the right play for my team at the right time.”

In less than two minutes, Toupal scored 10 points, hitting three three-pointers — including one where he was fouled and hit the ensuing free throw — to lift the Lions to an 88-78 win over No. 21 Newman, sole possession of first place in the Heartland Conference, at least a share of the regular-season title and the right to host the Heartland tournament next month.

Toupal, who hit five three-pointers, led all scorers with 18 points.

Newman (19-5, 9-4 Heartland) has one conference game left, against St. Edward’s next Saturday in Austin. UAFS also has one conference game left, at St. Edward’s on Thursday, where a win will clinch the Heartland title outright for the Lions.

“The most disappointing thing, I told our guys, was that we know how good (Toupal) is and yet we still gave up the shots we did,” Newman coach Mark Potter said. “Yeah, he’s five feet behind the three-point line, but he can hit that. We didn’t do a good job of stopping the three-point shot.

“It was a war all night long, a war right up until that point.”

Newman conjured up two impressive ralies to stay in the game, coming back from 30-16 with 7:15 left in the first half to cut the UAFS lead to 40-33 at halftime, and rallying from a 45-33 deficit early in the second half to take a 55-54 lead with 11 minutes to play.

Newman’s leading scorer, Shamar Acuay, battled foul trouble all night, getting two fouls early in the first half and picking up his fourth foul early in the second half.

“We had a bad start, and (UAFS) came out running and gunning right out of the gate,” Newman guard Bobby Wesley said. “We made a nice little run and showed some toughness ... I’m proud of my guys, I just wish we could play them again. Hopefully, we can.”

Acuay, who only played 14 minutes, finished with 12 points, one of four Jets in double figures. Marquis Culyer led Newman with 16 points. Wesley and Frankie Drayton added 11 points each.

With the game in the balance, the Lions turned to their leading scorer. And Toupal delivered.

Djordje Stojanovic added 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Lions, who outrebounded Newman 44-26.

“I want our guys to be patient, to withstand those type of runs (Newman) put together and weather the storm,” UAFS coach Josh Newman said. “With Jake, I think if he’s taking a good shot, it’s probably going in. And he was getting some good looks.”

UAFS: Du. Stojanovic 5-8 0-1 10, Dj. Stojanovic 5-8 3-6 16, McClish 1-5 7-7 9, Farr 3-11 7-10 13, Mitchell 3-4 0-0 6, Toupal 6-13 1-1 18, Branham 3-3 2-2 8, Copeland 1-2 0-2 2, Ekeh 2-3 2-3 6. Totals 29-57 22-32 88.

NEWMAN: Cuyler 5-8 4-4 16, Mesh 2-3 0-0 4, Beck 1-8 0-0 3, Wesley 4-9 1-2 11, Traylor 2-4 0-0 5, Acuay 4-5 4-5 12, Drayton 4-10 2-4 11, Pleasant 3-6 1-2 7, McCarthy 1-5 1-1 3, Emerllahu 2-5 2-2 6. Totals 28-63 15-20 78.

Halftime—UAFS 40, Newman 33. Three-pointers—UAFS 8-18 (Toupal 5-8, Dj. Stojanovic 3-5, Du. Stojanovic 0-1, McClish 0-2, Farr 0-2,); Newman 7-25 (Cuyler 2-4, Wesley 2-3, Beck 1-7, Traylor 1-2, Drayton 1-5, McCarthy 0-4). Rebounds—UAFS 44 (Dj. Stojanovic 12); Newman 26 (Drayton 8). Assists—UAFS 15 (Mitchell 5); Newman 18 (Wesley 6). Technicals—None. Att.—678

Newman women 58, Arkansas-Fort Smith 52 — Alexandra Ciabattoni had 14 points and 13 rebounds to lead Newman. Kianna Flannagan added 10 points and six assists for the Jets, while Cheniqwa Banks and Bobbi Coleman finished with 12 points each. The win improved Newman to 10-14, 5-6 in Heartland play.

UAFS: BenAmor 2-13 10-12 14, Donnerson 2-7 2-6 7, Holbert 1-5 0-1 3, Followwell 4-8 0-0 11, Howard 2-10 0-0 4, McFadden 2-6 4-4 8, Addison 1-2 0-0 3, Stegal 1-1 0-2 2. Totals 15-52 16-25 52.

NEWMAN: Ciabattoni 4-8 5-7 14, Muhammad 0-4 0-0 0, Flannagan 4-7 1-2 10, Ramelb 1-4 2-2 5, Coleman 4-10 3-4 12, Sonka 0-1 0-0 0, Banks 4-13 0-0 12, Johnson 0-0 0-0 0, John 0-0 1-2 1, Rosales 2-3 0-0 4. Totals 19-50 12-17 58.

Halftime—UAFS 25, Newman 21. Three-pointers—UAFS 6-18 (Followwell 3-5, Donnerson 1-1, Holbert 1-2, Addison 1-2, McFadden 0-3, Howard 0-3, BenAmor 0-2); Newman 8-24 (Banks 4-9, Ciabattoni 1-3, Flannagan 1-4, Ramelb 1-3, Coleman 1-4, Sonka 0-1). Rebounds—UAFS 36 (Donnerson 10); Newman 40 (Ciabattoni 13). Assists—UAFS 6 (Followwell 3); Newman 14 (Flannagan 6). Technicals—None. Att.—401.

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