North Platte – The No. 5 North Platte Community College men’s basketball team’s (21-1, 9-1 South Sub-Region, 4-0 NCCAC) found a way to win Saturday afternoon at McDonald-Belton Gymnasium as they knocked off the Central Community College Raiders (18-6, 2-3 NCCAC) in a Nebraska Community College Athletic Conference battle 71-59.
The Knights and Raiders both struggled offensively in the first half as the half ended in a very low scoring Knight advantage at 27-25. Aireon Porter and Marco Pascolo both led the way for the Knights with seven points apiece while Tyron Criswell scored eight for the Raiders. The first half was marred with fouls as four Knights had two fouls while one Raider had three fouls and three players had two. However, the Knights never trailed in the first half.
In the second half both teams found their rhythm offensively as both teams traded baskets. In the second half, there were six lead changes and four ties. The Knights trailed by as many as eight points, but a five point play brought the Knights right back.
“I am very excited that our guys responded to adversity tonight,” said assistant coach Nathan Wieseler. “Central is a very talented team and we were fortunate to emerge victorious.”
Pascolo was able to knife his way through the Raiders zone and make the basket as a foul was a called. A technical foul was then issued to the Raiders and Ethan Montalvo converted two free throws followed by Pascolo making his free throw to cut the deficit to three.
The Knights and Raiders would battle back and forth in a stretch that included a missed 3-pointer by Cameron Williams in which he followed his own miss and was fouled in the process to give the Knights a three point lead.
Late in the game the two teams were tied when Aireon Porter converted a lay-up and was fouled off an assist from Montalvo. Cameron Williams was then fouled and converted both to give the Knights a five point lead.
Montalvo converted seven of eight free throws down the stretch to give the Knights the 12 point victory. The Raiders did not score in the last two minutes and thirty seconds.
The Knights were led by a double-double from Aireon Porter who finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Ethan Montalvo scored the most points for the Knights as he finished with 17 on 11 of 13 shooting from the foul line. Marco Pascolo scored 15 and Cameron Williams finished with 11 as the other Knights in double-figures.
“I had to give my all because I missed the last game,” said Porter. “I had to step up for my team.”
The Raiders played only two in double-figures as Tyron Criswell finished with a game-high 21 points and a team-high eight rebounds while John Ruffin scored 13.
The victory gives the Knights a 4-0 record in the Nebraska Community College Athletic Conference while dropping the Raiders to 2-3. McCook Community College improved to 2-2 last night with a victory over Central while Southeast remains at 0-3.
Next week the Knights take to the road to face the No. 19 Northeastern Junior College Plainsmen (19-2, 6-2 South Sub-Region) on Tuesday Feb. 4 at 8:30 p.m. CST and the Lamar Community College Runnin’ Lopes (6-16, 2-6 South Sub-Region) on Friday Feb. 7 at 8:30 p.m. CST. The Knights defeated the Plainsmen 69-60 on Dec. 11 when North Platte was ranked No. 8 and the Plainsmen were No. 17. The Knights also defeated the Runnin’ Lopes at home on Dec. 7 by a score of 86-56.