MCC Men defeat North Platte 73-68
After enduring a couple tough losses to North Platte this regular season, the McCook Community men’s basketball team turned things around and beat the Knights Saturday in the play-in game of the Region IX Division 1 Tournament. MCC won 73-68 to advance to the second round against Laramie County Community College Thursday at 7 p.m. (MT)
The Indians got off to a fast start, endured some NPCC spurts but found a way to slow down the Knights’ offense.
“I thought this was a good job by our guys of executing a game plan, our goal was to keep them from getting to their spots and not allowing them to get to our bodies and get foul calls because the last two times we played them, the free-throw line has been a major key,” said MCC Coach Jacob Brandl.
In McCook on March 2, the Knights went 22 of 28 from the line in a 96-89 win and in North Platte March 23, NPCC out-scored MCC at the line 18-8 in North Platte’s 65-62 win, shooting 28 free throws again in that game.
On Saturday MCC limited North Platte to 10 free throws and out-scored the Knights 15-8 at the line.
“This game we shoot 18 and they shoot 10, and that was a big difference for us,” Brandl said.
MCC went up 6-2 in the first two minutes of the game, took an 11-4 lead at the 15:38 mark and a 3-pointer by Damien Perry (sophomore, Wareham, Mass.) gave the Indians a 14-6 lead at the 14:21 mark and MCC stretched it to a 15-point lead with 9:41 left in the half. North Platte went on a 25-11 run over the last 10 minutes of the half and took a 33-30 lead at intermission.
The Knights shot 40.7 from the field in the first half to 37.5 for MCC. North Platte took six 3-pointers and made two while MCC was three of 15 (20 percent) in the first half.
North Platte took its biggest lead of the game – seven points -- just 30 seconds into the second half, but MCC gnawed back into the game as the score was tied four times with four lead changes. The Knights took a 53-52 lead with 7:50 left to play.
“Offensively we stuck with it, we didn’t shoot the ball great today and we had good looks but at the end of the game when guys needed to step up, they did,” Brandl said.
Cortland Blake hit a pair of 3-pointers in the final six minutes of play to help kick-start the MCC offense.
“He’d been struggling in the first half and the early part of the second half and bangs two big-time 3s for us and finished with 10,” Brandl said of the sophomore from Fort Worth, who also had six rebounds. “And I thought he did a good job defensively.”
Perry led the Indians with 20 points.
“I thought Damien was the most active he has ever been,” Brandl said. Perry went two of four from the 3-point line, eight of nine from the free-throw line, had two rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Sophomore Rahkiem Petterson (Midland, Texas) and Cory Kaplan (redshirt sophomore, Merrit Island, Fla.) both scored 13 points and William Lee (freshman, Queens, N.Y. / Blue Ridge School (St. George, Va.) came off the bench with 10 points.
MCC finished the game shooting 42.2 percent while NPCC was at 47.2. The Knights had a 38-31 rebound edge. Freshman Julian Lual (Calgary, Alberta) joined Blake with six boards, but all of Lual’s came on the offensive end.
“All six of those were absolutely huge. Julian was a warrior for us today,” Brandl said. “He and Rakheim Petterson did a good job defensively.”
“Top to bottom everybody that got in the game, played really well,” Brandl said.
Rashe' France (redshirt sophomore, Memphis, Tenn.) played just four minutes in the game but his four-minute contributions did not go unnoticed by his coach.
“I thought RJ was engaged the entire game and was locked in. When I put him in there, I had no doubt he was going to play well. That’s tough to do, sitting on the bench for 36 minutes and now you’re expected -- during crunch time -- to come in and play.” Brandl said. “It’s easy to get beat on defense or give up an offensive rebound and he didn’t do it so credit to him.”
North Platte ends the season 7-13.
MCC goes to 13-9 and moves on to the second-round match Thursday against Laramie County Community College.
“I was really proud of our entire group for finally executing a game plan and stayed with it the entire game because that probably won us the game,” Brandl said.