Sterling, CO – It was a late night for North Platte Community College basketball in Sterling Colorado, but ultimately a good one. The women played perhaps their most complete game to date in a losing effort to NJC while the Men had their mettle tested and squeaked out a victory to stay with just one loss on the season.
The women were up first against a very good NJC team (11-4) at home but from the opening tip you could tell that this was going to be a different game for the Knights.
The first quarter featured a lot of time on possessions as both teams were feeling each other out. NJC made the first substitution in the game after about 3 mins of play when they replaced all five of their starters in an effort to jump-start the offense. North Platte was playing excellent defense and was starting to affect the NJC Plainswomen.
The Quarter ended with NJC holding on to a 15-12 lead. Leading the way for the Knights was center Angel Richards who has been battling injury for much of the start of the season.
NJC found their stride at the start of the second when they rattled off a quick 8-2 run prompting a time out by first year head coach Jeff Thurman. After the time out the Knights were able to find a small groove on offense but struggled with the inside out game by NJC. The Knights were outscored 25-13 in the quarter and were down 40-25 at the half. Emily Joesph and Nahatabaa Nacona lead the way for the Knights with 5 points each.
At the start of the third quarter you could tell the Knights were determined and came out with intensity. Teams traded buckets and with 6:45 left in the quarter the Knights took a time out with the score 48-32. Everytime NJC scored a basket the Knights would come down and match, neither team able to go on a run. Another time out at 4:03 left by NJC with the score 52-36. NJC was still in control but the Knights would not go away. NJC would find its groove on offense and finish the third on a 17-8 run to take a 69-44 lead going into the final frame. Late in the third the Knights would lose starting guard Madisyn Francis to injury.
The Plainswomen would be too much for the Knights in the fourth as the team, beset by injuries, would just run out of gas in Sterling. The final score 81-54. The Knights now have almost a week off before taking on Southeast, a division game, at home on Monday Jan 28th.
The nightcap was a game that would go down as one of the best this season for the Knights. The Knights have, for whatever reason, always struggled with the Northeastern Plainsmen (they came into the game with a 36-71 overall record against the Plainsmen). Last time these two teams met it took two overtimes to determine the winner. Tuesday nights game would not disappoint.
NJC would come out guns blazing and show they were not afraid of a Knights team that came in with only one loss on the season. 8 points later the Knights took a quick time out as they looked a bit shell shocked.
That feeling wouldn’t last as the Knights stormed back out of the time out behind guard Ilya Tyrtyshnik who started raining shots from the three point line (5/5 in the first half for 15 points). A flurry of offense would follow and the Knights would jump into a double digit lead and extend it to twelve 26-14 forcing a time out from NJC with 12:03 left in the half.
The rest of the half would belong to the Knights, they were able to get any shot they wanted, at the rim or from distance. The biggest lead of the half was with four minutes left that saw the Knights up by 18, 48-30. NJC would grab some momentum headed into half time as they scored the final six points of the half including a half court shot to beat the buzzer. The score at the half stood at 48-36.
With all the momentum NJC had a feeling they were in the game and it showed. They came out and got the first five points in the second half to cut the lead to seven which got a quick time out from Head Coach Kevin O’Connor.
Whatever he said to his team worked as they came out of the time out with renewed focus and went on a 6-0 run of their own to push the lead back into double digits.
From there the teams would stay fairly even. NJC would hold the slight advantage and with 8:56 left on the clock would take a time out down by six 63-57. The next three minutes would be disastrous for the Knights. NJC would get some support from the home crowd who could feel a momentum swing coming and over those three minutes NJC would go on a 10-3 run to retake the lead 67-66 with six minutes to play. They had come from 18 points down to snatch the lead from the Knights.
From there it was a dog fight. The Knights never allowed NJC to get more then a three point lead from there on out. Teams would trade blow after blow with big shots from Courtney Murrell (25 points, 6 rebs) leading the way for the Knights.
Da’May Jones would be sent to the free throw line for the double bonus with 9.9 seconds left and the Knights down 78-77. Jones would show why he is an 83% shooter from the free throw line, making both and pushing the Knights into the lead 79-78. A final shot from NJC would fall short and they would foul Tim Johnson on the rebound. Johnson would make 1 of 2 and the Knights would steal a win on the road 80-78.
The Knights improve to 14-1 on the season and now await a Western Nebraska team who just fell out of the national rankings on Jan 15th. That game will be Friday Jan 25th in North Platte. Tip Off at 7:30.