Neosho County Community College’s grit – and Jae-Min Yang’s dominance – led the Panthers past Dodge City and to a .500 record on Saturday night.
In a game that seemed like it would remain close all the way through – the score at half was 39-38 NCCC – the Panthers (5-5) were able to win comfortably 106-91 over Dodge City (7-2), marking the third 100-point game of the year for the Panthers and the second straight victory in the regular season over the Conquistadors.
Division I prospect Yang posted a career high of 29 points in the conference game, while another D-1 prospect, Jonathan Breeland Jr., notched 21, tying a season high. Trey Bates added 15 for the Panthers and Daniel Titus contributed a season high of 13 points, six rebounds and three blocks.
No matter the circumstances of the game, when the Panthers needed a basket or the right decision to be made, Yang seemed to deliver, in the post, on the perimeter or just doing the little things. Yang, a sophomore from South Korea, broke down the game as he was playing, and he knows his role well.
“I’m not thinking about the offense, I’m already thinking about the defense and the rebounding,” Yang said after the game. “That’s my job. I can play outside and inside. In my role for the team, I play inside. I just do my best for the team. I’m told to get the rebounds, but I can pass to the outside shooters. I think that’s my job for the team.”
Several critical offensive sets featured Yang in the post, and the 6-7 small forward would either pass in the interior for an easy layup for his teammates or fling a pass to one of his shooters for a 3.
Yang was one of the main reasons the Panthers had an upper advantage in a close contest, too, thanks to his 5 of 6 from the free throw line and his 3-of-6 shooting, scoring 11 in the first half.
Still, despite Yang shooting well in the first half, it was the defensive effort paired with an epic individual offensive performance that gave NCCC the edge, as the now .500 team shot 41 percent from the field in the first half.
Power forward Remy Lemovou blocked two straight shots that forced a turnover on Dodge City with nine minutes left in the first half. This defensive effort seemed to galvanize the entire team, and Bates scored four straight points with 5:16 left in the first half.
Dodge City, however, managed a late lead in the first half after Quindarius Thomas knocked down a 3 to put his team up 37-35 with just under 2 minutes left in the first half.
But Yang kept up his assertiveness, as off a fast break he was able to score as he was fouled. He completed the three-point play at the foul line to put NCCC up 38-37 at the end of the first 20 minutes of the game.
The Panthers never looked back.
Penetrating the interior from Breeland Jr., shooting once more by Yang and a stout defensive effort gave the Panthers an early 55-46 to start the second half.
Sensing blood in the water on Dodge City’s side, point guard Jadis White hurried down the court finding guard Torey Cargo, who immediately passed the ball to an open Yang in the corner. Yang quickly passed the ball right back to Cargo for an even better shot, as the 6-4 guard from New Orleans splashed the wide-open trey to put the Panthers up 86-72.
“I think we got aggressive defensively. We really came out and pressed hard and really did some of the things we worked on in practice. It seemed like in the first half, it didn’t matter what we were doing, we weren’t really doing it to the best of our ability like we were in this last week,” head coach Jeremy Coombs said. “We challenged them at halftime, really getting up and guarding guys and flying around when not getting the ball. I thought offensively we did a really good job of moving the ball, and attacking and using ball screens. We made some adjustments to what they were doing to us, and I thought the guys did a good job of making those adjustments.”
Those adjustments led to the Panthers shooting 53 percent overall and 46.7 percent from beyond the arc while committing 12 turnovers. A ramped-up defensive impetus resulted in 46 percent shooting from the field and 13 percent from beyond the arc for Dodge City, who also had 12 turnovers.
The high scorers for Dodge City were potential Division I players Landyn Tyler with 19 and Keldrick Hayes with 17.
Up next, the Panthers will play Hutchinson Community College in Hutchinson on Wednesday at 7:30 pm.
Dodge City snapped the NCCC women’s four-game win streak on Saturday evening.
The Lady Conquistadors (6-3) won decisively over NCCC (5-3) 78-60 – the third straight loss to Dodge City in the regular season – behind the effort of five double-digit scorers, including Division I prospects Ashia Pool and Faith Catthouse with 12 apiece and Fredrionna Adams with 10. Leroyeisha Thomas registered 11.
These players helped Dodge City shoot 43 percent from the field with 13 turnovers.
Leaders for NCCC were Jessica Jones with 22 points, while Chrissy Brown dropped 19 points and nine rebounds.
The Lady Panthers shot 25 percent from the field and committed 16 turnovers.
“Their size was really a hard area for our team to match up with,” head coach JJ Davis said.
Next up, the Lady Panthers will play Hutchinson Community College in Hutchinson at 5:30 pm on Wednesday.