Neosho County and Cowley County were in a dogfight in the first half Wednesday night, but NCCC coach Jeremy Coombs wasn’t there to see the end of the college basketball game after being ejected.
Cowley beat NCCC 126-109 on Wednesday night in Panther Gymnasium. Jae-Min Yang scored 19 and snatched eight rebounds, while Jonathan Breeland Jr. had 17 points and six rebounds. James Taylor and Torey Cargo racked up 16 apiece, and Corbett Kimberlin scored 12.
While the Panthers had six double-digit scorers – Jadis White had 11 points – Cowley, a team that lost in the first round of the NJCAA Region 6 playoffs last year and returned three sophomores from that team, posted seven double-digit scorers. But two freshmen dominated the game for Cowley in Mike’l Henderson and Dalen Ridgnal; Ridgnal posted 28 points and 11 rebounds, while Henderson scored 25.
Assistant coach Justin Fairman said NCCC should have done what they were supposed to do to stay competitive.
“They’re a wild and scrappy team, so that probably messed with us a little bit,” Fairman said. “But as far as our game plan, if we stick to it, we can beat anybody. We just have to stick to it. We got a couple bad calls, missed some shots we probably should’ve made (35 of 72). The free throws would’ve kept us half way in the game. We lost by 20, we missed probably closed to 10 free throws (25 of 36). We just have to grind it out and do what we do and be the team that we are supposed to be.”
To go along with Yang’s and Breeland Jr.’s dominance, NCCC executed some big plays in the first half. Cargo was doing all he could, as he used his crossover for a 3, stole the ball to find Breeland Jr. for a wide-open layup, and then used his hesitation move to get into the lane before the Panthers found Taylor for a wide-open 3. Taylor knocked this 3 down at the buzzer to make the score 61-58 at halftime.
In the first half, NCCC shot 48.6 percent from the field and 55.6 percent from downtown, and even shot 85.7 percent from the free throw line.
But things didn’t go in favor of NCCC in the second half, as Cowley outscored the Panthers 65-51. Stats across the board were virtually even, with the exception of Cowley shooting 60 percent from the field versus NCCC’s 48.6 percent.
“The first half we were really on the attack. We were moving the ball right, taking the good shots,” Fairman said. “In the second half, we got kind of lackadaisical and it kind of slowed us down and that’s why they were able to get their run. They’re a fast-paced team, they’re a good team, and they made shots in spurts. They can score 10 in a row on you. If you are not going to play defense, that’s going to happen.”
Cowley would lead by as much as 24 in the second half, despite two ties and four lead changes early on in the game.
While Ridgnal and Henderson got into the paint and scored with ease, Cowley’s Deng Bol and Kimberlin and White, along with some other NCCC players, trash talked back and forth after some physical play that resulted in technical fouls.
That materialized into frustration on the NCCC bench.
And some missed and questionable foul calls that would have gone in favor of NCCC led to Coombs getting into a heated conversation with the referees. Coombs was ejected late in the fourth quarter.
Fairman said these kind of exchanges can happen in the heat of battle.
“It was us playing hard,” Fairman said. “They were pushing us around. We’re not just going to lay down to anybody. As far as the referees, that’s on them to try and clean that up. Anything can happen in that situation. Two teams may want to fight at that point. The referees have to be able to stop that. As far as us, we have to be mentally tough and stronger than what we were, because there were some that were probably our fault, but we have to be mentally tough.”
With Coombs ejected and unavailable, another disadvantage for the Panthers was that Deonte Hicks jammed his finger on his left shooting hand in practice. He has been out the last few games and there is no timetable for his return.
NCCC (7-11, 3-6) will gear up for Colby County Community College (14-3, 6-2) on the road Monday.