|No. 15 EMCC Lions fall to No. 7 Indian Hills 79-70 in NJCAA consolation action to end hoops season|
HUTCHINSON, Kan. – For the second straight day against a national Top 10 foe, the 15th-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College couldn’t overcome an early second-half spurt by the opposition in falling to No. 7 Indian Hills Community College (Ottumwa, Iowa), 79-70, in Wednesday’s consolation action of the 2012 NJCAA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship being held at the Hutchinson Sports Arena in Kansas.
As they did in Tuesday’s 71-63 opening-round setback to top-ranked and unbeaten South Plains College (Texas), the Lions also let a halftime lead slip away against a nationally ranked opponent. Against Indian Hills, EMCC led virtually the entire first half and was up by as many as eight points before settling for a 33-29 halftime edge. Despite being slowed by 15 first-half turnovers, the Lions gained the early advantage by limiting the Warriors to just 25-percent (7-of-28 FGs) shooting through the opening 20 minutes of play.
After hitting only 1-of-11 three-point attempts in the first half, Indian Hills capitalized on a sudden burst of perimeter shooting along with aggressive full-court pressure to completely turn around the pace of the game. A tip-in basket by EMCC post player Millaun Brown made it a 37-37 contest at the 16:46 mark, but that’s when the Warriors turned up the heat defensively and got red-hot from outside. Three straight 3-pointers from Gary Ricks Jr., combined with an unrelenting full-court press, ignited IHCC to a momentum-changing 18-2 run. Within a four-minute span, the Lions’ 35-31 lead quickly turned into a 49-37 deficit by the 15:15 mark.
The Lions tried to stem the tide with five straight points on a 3-pointer by D.J. Evans and a highlight jam by Colin Borchert on a feed from Tradarrius McPhearson. However, Brown, EMCC’s best inside presence, fouled out shortly thereafter with 12:22 remaining in the contest that featured 64 personal fouls and 84 free-throw attempts between the two teams.
With the Warriors maintaining a double-figure advantage on the heels of their second-half explosion, East Mississippi did manage to cut the deficit to single digits (62-54) again by the 7:17 mark. However, the Lions’ comeback attempt was quickly thwarted when Jameel McKay had a put-back dunk and Ricks followed with his fifth 3-pointer of the contest to put Indian Hills comfortably back in front by 13 points (67-54) with 6:27 remaining in the game.
Indian Hills’ cushion reached 16 points late in the contest, but three consecutive baskets by EMCC’s McPhearson over the closing minute kept the final margin to single digits.
McPhearson, a product of Raymond High School, finished with 16 points, six rebounds, four steals and two assists. Borchert, an All-Region 23 selection from Phoenix, Ariz., recorded a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Curtis Hall, of West Point, added a dozen points for EMCC.
Improving to 31-4 on the season, Indian Hills put four scorers in double figures, led by McKay and D.J. Bennett with 16 points apiece. McKay also pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds, including eight offensive boards. Ricks finished with 15 points on 5-of-7 three-point accuracy, while Roderick Bobbitt added 10 points, six assists and five steals for the winners.
Coach Mark White’s EMCC Lions closed out the campaign with a 23-6 overall record, following marks of 25-5 last season and 27-7 two years ago. East Mississippi’s three-year combined record 75-18 has featured three consecutive NJCAA Tournament appearances as back-to-back-to-back NJCAA Region 23 champions along with three straight MACJC North Division regular-season titles.
In addition, four of EMCC’s six setbacks on the season came to teams currently ranked in the NJCAA’s Top 10. Along with falling to seventh-ranked Indian Hills and No. 1 South Plains at this week’s NJCAA Tournament, the Lions dropped November road decisions to Northwest Florida State College and Shelton State Community College, respectively ranked second and sixth in the NJCAA’s final regular-season Top 20 poll.
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