|Three-time Region 23 Champion EMCC draws No. 1 South Plains for NJCAA hoops tourney opener|
SCOOBA – Rating as one of only two schools nationally with a current streak of three straight appearances in the NJCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship, the 15th-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College find themselves in arguably the toughest mini-bracket of this year’s tournament to be played March 20-24 in Hutchinson, Kan.
Three-time champions of the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament and representing District 15, head coach Mark White’s 23-4 EMCC Lions will tip off the 65th NJCAA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship by taking on top-ranked and unbeaten South Plains College (Texas) Tuesday at 10 a.m. in Game 1 at the Hutchinson Sports Arena. The 32-0 SPC Texans, guided by 12th-year head coach Steve Green and representing District 5, claimed the 2008 NJCAA Championship.
The seeding of the tournament’s blind draw, as determined at the NJCAA Annual Meeting last March, also has two other 30-win teams in the same mini-bracket with EMCC. Game 2 at noon on Tuesday will pit a pair of 30-3 teams in Monroe College (N.Y.), of District 3, against Indian Hills Community College-Ottumwa (Iowa), from District 11. The Mustangs of Monroe College is the other men’s basketball program that has made the NJCAA Tournament each of the last three years. Monroe and Indian Hills completed the regular season ranked third and seventh, respectively, in the NJCAA Top 20 national poll.
In the five-day, double-elimination tournament, the winners of Games 1 and 2 will face other in the championship bracket Wednesday at 6 p.m. in Game 10. The losers of those two first-round contests will fall to the consolation bracket and battle to stay alive in Game 9 Wednesday at 3 p.m.
With the College of Southern Idaho (30-3), representing District 1, returning to defend its 2011 national title, the other district champions comprising this year’s 16-team tournament field include: (D2) Eastern Oklahoma State College (30-3); (D3) Monroe College, N.Y. (30-3); (D4) Three Rivers CC, Mo. (21-12); (D5) South Plains College, Texas (32-0); (D6) Seward County CC, Kan. (28-6); (D7) Columbia State CC, Tenn. (21-6); (D8) Northwest Florida State College (29-1); (D9) Otero JC, Colo. (29-4); (D10) Spartanburg Methodist College, S.C. (28-5); (D11) Indian Hills CC-Ottumwa, Iowa (30-3); (D12) Wallace State CC-Hanceville, Ala. (19-15); (D13) Gordon College, Ga. (26-7); (D14) Navarro College, Texas (25-9); (D15) East Mississippi CC (23-4); and (D16) Wabash Valley College, Ill. (25-8).
All tournament games will air live on NJCAA TV, powered by iHigh.com, at www.njcaatv.ihigh.com. Fans will be able to follow the action with updated results and statistics along with additional tournament information at www.njcaabbtrny.org.
With composite records of 75-16 (.824) overall and 33-3 (.917) in MACJC North Division regular-season play, the EMCC Lions have claimed the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament championship and MACJC North Division regular-season title each of the last three years en route to participating in the NJCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship. East Mississippi Community College had not made a previous appearance in the NJCAA Tournament prior to 2010.
In their school-first national tournament showing in 2010, the EMCC Lions claimed an 86-65 opening-round victory over Brunswick (N.C.) Community College in their tourney debut before falling to Navarro (Texas) College, 72-58, and Northwest Florida State College, 77-75. A year ago in Kansas, EMCC dropped decisions to Southeastern (Iowa) Community College, 76-66, and Western Wyoming Community College, 74-56.
Based in Levelland, Texas, South Plains College competes in the Western Junior College Athletic Conference (WJCAC). The undefeated SPC Texans are making their first NJCAA Tournament appearance since 2008 when they claimed the national title. Represented by six different states as well as having players from Canada, France and Angola, top-ranked South Plains College averages 87.4 points per game and owns a +19.6 scoring average over their opponents on the year. Sophomore guard Marshall Henderson paces three double-digit SPC scorers with an average of 19.4 points per contest, including 115-of-269 (43%) accuracy from beyond the three-point arc for the season. Freshman 6-foot-10 forward Yanick Moreira is second on the club in scoring (12.2 ppg) and leads the Texans in rebounding (7.4 rpg) and blocked shots (2.1 bpg).
Averaging 77.3 points per game on the year, the EMCC Lions enter the NJCAA Tournament with a +16.4 scoring average while holding their 2011-12 opponents to an average of 60.9 points per contest. Most recently, EMCC limited both Southern-Shreveport (27.7%) and Pearl River (29.8%) to less than 30-percent field-goal shooting in double-digit wins in the finals (63-49) and semifinals (65-52), respectively, of the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament in Clinton.
Three of the Lions’ four losses on the season – 66-63 to Pearl River in the MACJC state semifinals, 68-67 at Coahoma in their regular-season finale to end a 16-game win streak, and 67-61 at Shelton State back in November – were by a collective total of only 10 points. The other setback, 88-67, came against current second-ranked Northwest Florida State on the road back on Nov. 5.
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