Both Neosho County Community College basketball teams went down at home to Butler Community College Wednesday night.
The women lost 100-54, which is their third loss in a row. The men lost 86-68, which is the fourth loss in five games.
To put it into perspective, the Panther women faced the No. 9 team in Division I NJCAA, and sophomore guard Lauren Jones scored a career-high 26 points, including 6-of-10 3s. She shot 7 of 13 from the field as well.
Sophomore forward Briona Jenson, who returned from a grade-2 sprain, put up six points and sophomore guard Rajone Callahan put up four points. On sophomore night, where each sophomore walked out with family and was recognized with a poster at halftime, NCCC head coach JJ Davis cherished the moment.
“I’ll never forget them. This was a 2020-21 COVID year,” Davis said. “Those four guys stayed – five including my manager. There’s a special place in my heart for all of them.”
Throughout the contest, Davis implored defensive prowess and complimented well-executed offensive plays. But missing in action were the dynamic point guard in Destiny Stanford and playmaker in guard Jeanelle Brown, and that accounted for somewhat of a lack of ball-handling and decision-making.
NCCC committed 32 turnovers in the game, and shot at 29 percent, while Butler turned the ball over just 17 times and shot at 47 percent. Butler All-Conference big Tamara Nard piled up 16 points, three steals and a block. Butler, though, kept feeding the rock to big Kaylee Nero, who scored a season-high 25 points and brought down six rebounds. Nero was too good in the paint, reverse-pivoting for layups, running the floor for easy layups, and grabbing offensive rebounds for put-backs.
“Turnovers have been our heel all year. We are still missing our starting point guard which is no excuse, but we came out and turned the ball over,” Davis said.
Not having to deal with as many injuries, the men seem to be a little more motivated when facing a top team. Most of the game was close against the third-best team in the KJCCC East.
Sophomore guard Magic Reliford led the team with 15 points and dished out three assists; freshman guard Tremaine Chesley had 14 points and six rebounds; freshman point guard Deondre Buggage posted 13 points and four rebounds; sophomore big Daniel Titus had 11 points and six rebounds; and freshman guard Cougar Downing had 10.
Titus, Buggage and Downing all had at least two 3s each.
These playmakers got the score to 37-35 Butler at the break. But then Butler went on a run that included solid ball movement and an easy layup by Butler’s DeeJuan Pruitt, which put the score up to 54-45 with 15 to go in the game. Butler would go on to close out the game in the second half.
Most of the stats are identical, but Butler just shot the ball better at 54 percent, while NCCC shot 36 percent. Butler clearly had more points in the paint than Neosho, which for the most part, was taking tough, contested shots from downtown. And, while not that prevalent overall, some offensive rebounds took away the defensive momentum from NCCC.
“(Butler’s) field goal percentage is No. 1 in the conference and I think it’s because they take those shots and they get those great shots,” NCCC head coach Jeremy Coombs said.
Butler had an advantage in their guard play to take those shots as Shawn Hopkins, their leading scorer in the game with 22, is 6’4”. He used his height and athleticism for great shots in the paint, shooting 55 percent in the game, highlighting why he is sixth in the conference in overall shooting percentage. Three of the four Butler top scorers shot over 50 percent, including Noah Thomasson, who scored 17 on 60 percent shooting.
“...It doesn’t get any easier. I think we just have to find a way to be tough, defend, rebound, and just do all the little things right,” Coombs said.
The men (7-11, 5-11) will face Cloud (5-14, 3-14) on the road Saturday at 4 pm, followed by the women (4-15, 3-14) playing Cloud (8-10, 7-10) at 6 pm.
Butler: 18 26 33 23 - 100
NCCC: 14 14 13 13 - 54
Jones 26, Jenson 6, Mike’ya House 8, Adelia Timmer 3, Callahan 4, Kelsey Dimattia 1, Aubrey Ball 2, Danielle Weaver 3, Emilee Escareno 1
Butler: 37 49 - 86
NCCC: 35 33 - 68
Reliford 15, Chesley 14, Buggage 13, Titus 11, Downing 10, De’Antray Hughes 3, Quentin Asberry 2
See a future edition of The Tribune for all the latest on NCCC basketball