By Chris Schmidbauer, Sports Information Director
Toledo, OH -- In what will be classified as a rebuilding year for the Owens Men's Basketball program where wins have been hard to come by, Sharif Saleem's layup with 2.5 seconds left in the game gave Owens a 66-65 win over Hocking College on Saturday afternoon. The win is the Express's third of the season and their first conference win this year .
The Express jumped out to an early double digit lead against the Hawks. Jordan Grayson's three at the 11;27 mark of the first half gave the Express a 16-4 lead. Owens would maintain a lead in double figures for most of the half, leading by 18 at one point.
Owens would lead 31-13 with 3:24 to play in the half after Ka'von Gainer buried a jumper from the right wing. Hocking would not go down easily though, as the Hawks closed the half on a 9-2 run to trim the halftime deficit to just 11 points at 33-22.
The Express would score the first two baskets of the second half on a pair of layups from Saleem and Aamir Solomon, but the Hawks kept Owens within their sights. Two threes by Jose Deleon bookend a pair of free throws by Dalane Browns to pull Hocking to within single digits of Owens at 37-30 with 17:10 to play in the half. Owens would push their lead back to 10 after a hoop and harm from Aamir Solomon, but the Hawks kept chipping away at the Express lead.
Hocking would cut their deficit to just five points after a three from Azende Johnson made the score 42-37 with 14:32 to play in the second half. Just a minute later, layups by Deleon and Johnson trimmed the Owens lead to just one at 42-41.
On the Express's next possession. Grayson would hit a clutch three to make the Owens lead four points. The Express and Hawks would trade baskets much of the rest of the half, with Owens holding a slim lead.
The Express led 59-53 after a layup and one from Saleem with 6:13 to play in the game, and the Hawks would go on a run. Owens would go cold from the field for the next two and a half minutes, while the Hawks would take the lead on a Jarell Giles three ball with 4:30 to play. Hocking would get a layup 28 seconds later to lead 62-59 with 4:03 to play.
Thirty seconds later, Grayson would hit another clutch three to re-tie the score at 62-62, and a minute and a half later, Aamir Solomon's layup on the fast break would give Owens a 64-62 lead with two minutes left on the clock.
On the next Hocking possession, the Hawks would hit a big three of their own, when Azende Johnson drilled a shot from beyond the arc at the left point. Hocking had the lead at 65-64 forcing an Owens timeout.
The Express and Hocking would each turn the ball over on their next possessions. The Express would get the ball back with 26 seconds left in regulation. Owens elected to run the clock down to settle for a final shot. Solomon would attempt a layup for Owens that was blocked out of bounds by Hocking's Dalane Brown.
Owens would take their final timeout to set up the game winning basket.
Ka'von Gainer would inbound the ball to a leaping Saleem, who was able to lay the ball in with 2.5 seconds remaining to give Owens a 66-65 lead.
Jose Deleon's half court heave would hit off the backboard as time expired to give Owens the one point win.
Sharif Saleem was a force inside for Owens. He led the Express in scoring with 20 points on 9-4 shooting and he grabbed a game high 13 rebounds. It represented Saleem's second double-double this week and his seventh of the year.
Aamir Solomon was the only other Owens' player in double figures with 11 points. Jordan Grayson also had eight points off the bench for the Express. Both Jacob Cousino and Ka'von Gainer each finished with 0 rebounds a piece as well.
Owens shot 45.8% (27-59) from the floor for the ball game, while Hocking shot 39.3% (24-61) in the contest.
The Express now improves to 3-25 overall and 1-13 in the OCCAC. Hocking fell to 7-18 overall and 3-12 in conference play.
Owens will wrap up the home schedule for the season on Wednesday night when they welcome in Edison. The Chargers are 21-4 overall and 8-3 in the OCCAC. Tip off is schedule for 7:30 PM from the SHAC.