Jonathan Breeland Jr.’s efficient guard play led the Panthers to their 11th win of the year Wednesday night at Panther Gymnasium.
For the second time this year, NCCC ousted Cloud Community College 91-85 on Homecoming Night behind Breeland Jr.’s 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting. Corbett Kimberlin left the contest with 16 points, while Torey Cargo scored 15 and brought down five rebounds, James Taylor scored 13 and Jae-Min Yang had 11 points. NCCC snapped a five-game losing streak with the win.
“I thought early we executed really well and defensively I thought we did some nice stuff,” head coach Jeremy Coombs said. “Obviously we had some game plans going into the game and I thought we executed that game plan really well. When you work on things in practice, you want to see them in games. We did a nice job there. But offensively, we kind of had it going there. We were able to knock down some 3s, some wide-open shots. We haven’t been shooting it great — we didn’t shoot it great down in Coffeyville — but we came in here tonight after a couple days of practice just putting up a ton of shots and I thought they did a good job there.”
Cloud’s Jay Lewis, who scored 25 points and dished out eight dimes, put up a ton of shots and had the ball on a string, using his exceptional dribbling ability to get himself into spots that suited his strengths, including midrange jumpers and layups. He had 12 points in the first half on 3-of-7 shooting.
Matching Lewis’ will was Division I prospect Iyen Enaruna, who has a brother in Jayhawk’s Tristan Enaruna. Cloud’s Enaruna, though, is actually an inch taller than his KU brother at 6’9”, and he used every inch of his length to power his way to baskets in the paint, scoring eight points in that first half.
This effort in the first half was neutralized by Yang, who would often use power dribbles, pivots all the while reading the defense for his best shot at the rim and an eventual 11 points. Breeland Jr. didn’t back down from Lewis’s challenge and often used his quickness and satisfactory handle to get good shots all over the court, as the 6’3” guard scored often off his 3-of-5 shooting in the first half.
On the defensive end in the first half, NCCC forced Cloud to just 37 percent shooting and eight turnovers, while the Panthers shot it at 51 percent with six turnovers.
The athletic guards of NCCC were the reason for good offense and good defense. Jadis White, Breeland Jr., Taylor, Davonte Yates and Torey Cargo, who returned to action after missing seven games due to a coach’s decision, all have the ability to stay in front of other guards.
Pressure mounted in that second half, however. Cloud’s Chad Vincent-Simon hit two straight 3s to put the Thunderbirds up 49-44 early in the second half.
Enaruna was constantly using his girth and size to muscle up shots, and he ultimately totaled 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting. In the first game versus NCCC on Jan. 29, he had 20 points.
But through Breeland’s scoring, NCCC didn’t waver. Cargo followed along, intensifying his game by using his shiftiness and tight handle to create separation en route to a good look at the basket.
And through the playmaking of Cargo, Breeland Jr. and Jadis White, who racked up seven assists through his constant routes to the rim, Kimberlin was able to get free and hit on four 3s off five attempts.
Breeland Jr. was a huge part of the space created for Kimberlin, and he said this aspect helped the team.
“Driving was just working for all of us,” Breeland said after the game. “When we drove, things opened up and our shooters was open like Corbett. Corbett hit a lot of 3s. Everybody was hitting 3s. Torey was hitting 3s. The whole team was just hitting. If they didn’t have a shot, they would drive and they could get a layup, too.”
Shooting wise, NCCC shot it at 55 percent and 60 percent (15 of 25) on 3s versus Cloud’s 46 percent shooting and 34 percent on 3s.
Cloud coach Jordan Altman reflected back on the differences in the game.
“We thought three big keys for us were transition defense, rebounding and establishing a post presence early; we did all three of those things in the first half,” Altman said. “They surprised us. They had a couple guys hit some 3s that’s not necessarily their strong point, but they knocked it down. In the second half, I just think we ran out of gas a little bit.”
NCCC (11-18) will play the regular season finale versus Allen County (9-20) 7:30 pm at Panther Gymnasium.