NEO Claims Region 2 Men's Title
March 8, 2014
SHAWNEE - Making a return trip to the Big Dance in Hutchinson, Kan., since the 2007-08 season, No. 4 seed Northeastern A&M's Golden Norsemen used intestinal fortitude to stave off a relentless Redlands Community College, 91-85, Saturday evening for the Men's Division 1 Region 2 Tournament Championship in the W.P. Wood Field House at St. Gregory's University.
With the victory coach Dustin Grover's Golden Norse visit the Hutchinson Sports Arena, March 17-23, for the National Junior College Athletic Association National Tournament. NEO carries a 22-10 season record back to the tournament where they finished ninth in 2007-08.
"It's been a long time between trips to the dance," Grover said. "We need to use this opportunity to try and create a situation where going becomes a common occurrence."
First-year coach Earnest Crumbley guided the No. 5 seed Redlands Cougars to a 25-8 season record.
What made this accomplishment by the Golden Norsemen so remarkable is that they put 91 points on the scoreboard less than 24 hours after battling tooth-and-nail during a record five overtime periods in a 117-115 victory over No. 1 seed Connors State College in the Friday night semifinals.
"I think they are so young, they didn't know any better than to be tired," Grover said. "They just kind of battled and battled and grinded it out.
"We couldn't ever quite pull away, but over the last 40 days we have figured out a way to win as a team," Grover said. "Plus it's hard to beat a team three times in one year and that held true today."
During the first half the Cougars built a 12-8 lead in the first minute, only to see the Norsemen construct a 32-19 cushion with 5:58 until intermission. Sophomore guard Christian Leach scored 14 points and freshman center Igor Ibaka added 12 as NEO held off the Cougars down the stretch for a 43-41 lead at half.
"We didn't play as many guys today as we did last night, but everyone we put in made major contributions," Grover said. "We've been able to plug people in like that and gain something positive."
Neither team could sustain any offensive momentum in the second half as the score remained tied seven times with only three lead changes.
"Usually in these type of games, there aren't very many points scored," Grover said. "But, it was like both teams were tired so there wasn't much defense played at either end."
Leach and Ja'mill Powell both scored 23 points each and while Powell was most valuable player of the tournament, both players represented NEO on the all-tournament team. Ibaka contributed 21 points and 10 rebounds while Erikk Wright, Jr. added six, Terrence Clemens five, Luther Thomas five, Derrick Frye five and Corey Baldwin three.
Brian Brown tallied 25 points for Redlands while Jared Griffin added 23, Zarif Basil 10, Quinton Paras seven, Tony Aska seven, Anthony Williams four, KJ Hinds three, Dedrek Gatson two, Marcellious Green two and Jerry Owens
Northern Oklahoma College-Enid (21-11) captured the women's Region 2 Tournmament with an 89-73 win over Eastern State College (26-6).
NEO's MaKenzie Solberg earned all-tournament team recognition.