Early in the game, the Neosho County Community College men played well in a spirited clash versus the Independence CC Pirates Wednesday night at home. But Indy’s Zahir Porter ramped up his play in the second half to help his team win 99-75.
NCCC had five double-digit scorers in the game, including sophomore forward Jae-Min Yang with 16 points and seven rebounds – his 13th double-digit scoring game of the year – sophomore guard James Taylor with 14 points and four rebounds, freshman guard Jonathan Breeland Jr. with 13 points and six rebounds, freshman guard Corbett Kimberlin with 11 points, and freshman forward Daniel Titus had 10 points.
ICC’s sophomore guard Porter, on the other hand, tallied a career-high 32 points – significantly more than his 18 points in the 94-76 win over NCCC for Indy on Jan. 13 – and sophomore guard Demetric Horton, the 16th leading scorer in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference, put up 14. Sophomore guard Sam’i Roe, the 14th leading scorer in the KJCCC, scored just seven.
NCCC had a chance in the first half versus a now 19-6 team, especially with Porter, a player being heavily recruited who has offers from Texas State, Florida International University, Weber State, Portland State, and University of Milwaukee, having scored just five points in the first half.
Three-straight turnovers by Independence (19-6, 10-5), including two offensive fouls and a shot clock violation, combined with some good aggressive play on offense by the NCCC usuals (Yang, Breeland Jr., Kimberlin, Jadis White, Titus and Taylor) put the Panthers up 23-16 with 6:45 left in the first half.
Taylor then drove to the hoop in a hurry for an easy layup to extend the lead to 25-16 with 6:15 left in the first half.
“Defensive-wise, we just wanted to contain their attackers and of course, they have players that can shoot the ball real well,” assistant NCCC coach Justin Fairman said. “The idea was to just attack because we get lazy, and sometimes with the ball we’re passing around the perimeter instead of having that drive and being able to get to the goal. Other than that, the defense, we had it where we wanted it in the first half, but we got lazy within the last two or three minutes and they started getting buckets and brought it within one. And we came out so flat in the second half and made it so bad for us.”
Porter, who comes in off the bench, decided enough was enough. He hit a 3 and slammed it down with authority to make the score 28-21 with 3:23 left in the first half.
Freshman guard Jaden McClanahan of Indy would go on to hit a layup at the buzzer to put the score at 32-31 NCCC at halftime.
Just before halftime, however, there was a bit of a disagreement between head coach Jeremy Coombs and assistant Independence coach Justin Mann. Both Coombs and Mann had a few choice words as they were walking towards each other. They had to be separated by referees and coaches.
“The guy, I can’t think of his number, he was walking and may have bumped Coombs, so Coombs was trying to see why. That’s all it was,” Fairman said of the incident.
The second half rolled around, and Horton immediately hit a 3 to give Indy a 34-32 lead. From this point on, Porter, a 6’6” wiry student-athlete from the Bronx, took over the game with straight drives to the rim, slams, post-ups for easy and-one layups and 3s coming off the pick.
There was a point in the second half when he scored 14 points in a row. Overall, he scored 27 points in the second half, which led to 50 percent shooting and 15 3s for ICC. Porter had five of those 3s that helped Independence to a 68-43 second half.
“We wasn’t really playing effective in the first half; they were getting too many easy buckets, so we just came in the locker room at halftime, talked it out, and he (head coach Bill Morosco) said next half we need to come out with intensity,” Porter said. “So when the coach put me in the game, I just had to do what he told me to do: be aggressive on the offensive end, get to the basket and find my shots.
“Coach just tells me that I’m too tall to be doing some of the stuff that I do, I guess, so he just tells me to use my length, get to the basket to get by people, simple moves. I guess I was doing that tonight, and it was working well for me.”
Indy also scored 10 points off of 14 turnovers by NCCC.
NCCC men (10-15, 5-10) will take on the No. 6 team in the nation, Cowley (22-3, 14-1), in Arkansas City at 7:30 pm on Saturday.