NJCAA D-I Nationals Quarterfinals Are Set

Couple of hard fought thrillers complete the quarterfinal matchups

March 19, 2008

By Van Coleman

CSTV & Hoopmasters.com


Van is one of the nation's premier recruiting experts.

HUTCHINSON, Kan. - Indian Hills (Ia.) and South Plains (Tex.) win a couple of hard fought thrillers to complete the quarterfinal matchups.


The final two "Sweet 16" games weren't for the faint-hearted as they went to the wire before Indian Hills and South Plains advanced into the "Elite Eight."  They were games where big plays were made by big-time players.  It was definitely a wild afternoon on the hardwood at the Sports Arena. 


Wednesday, March 19th first round games:


South Plains (Tex.) (26-5) 88 - Georgia Perimeter (23-10) 83


This one looked like it could be over very early as South Plains jumped out to double-digit lead at the halfway point of the opening half behind 6-foot-1 Nick Okorie, 6-foot-5 Jonathan Hall, and 6-foot-8 Carlos Dos Santos.  The Texans extended their lead to 41-22 with just 3:15 to play in the half, and it looked like Georgia Perimeter was on the ropes, until 6-foot-7 Jacquiese Holcombe led a late comeback igniting a 7-0 run with four quick points, then cutting the margin to 11 points, 44-33, with a tip-in just before the buzzer.


The second half started with both clubs exchanging early buckets, as South Plains was up 53-41 with just over 15 minutes to play.  But Georgia Perimeter came out pressing full court, and Holcombe and 6-foot-3 swing man Kaihrique Irick combined for twelve points to lead a 14-2 run that closed the gap to one, 55-54, with 10:44 to play.  It was tied at 61-all with just over seven minutes to play when Irick went to the bench for a breather.  It was like taking the energizer battery out of Perimeter as South Plains jumped right back on top behind Okorie and 6-foot-8 Luciano De Souza to go up 74-67 with four minutes to play.  Georgia Perimeter could never get it closer than four after that as South Plains won a hard fought 88-83 victory over the Georgia squad.


South Plains was led by De Santos with 19 points, while Okorie added 18 points, Jonathan Hall 17 points, and De Souza 16 points in the win.  6-foot-3 David Tairu came off the bench to add 11 points for the Texans.  Georgia Perimeter's top gun was Irick with 26 points.  He received solid support from Jacquiese Holcombe with 24 points and 8 boards. 6-foot-2 Anthony Miller added 14 points and Jamail Turner chipped in with 11 points in the loss.


Indian Hills (Ia.) (27-8) 75 - No. 5 Itawamba (Miss.) (29-3) 73 OT


This one started a little sluggish as many early games do as Indian Hills broke open a four-all tie with 16 minutes to play in the half on six straight points by Dwight Buycks to open a 10-4 advantage. But, Itawamba came right Back going inside to 6-foot-6 wide body Santez Johnson knot it 10-all.  It was a game of four to six point runs most of the rest of the half, as Itawamba came from six down to take a 31-29 lead with thirty seconds to play behind eight points down the stretch by 6-foot-4 Sergio Kerusch.  But, Buycks drove, was fouled and made both free throws to tie it at 31heading into the locker room.


The second half began with Itawamba opening up an eight point lead, 43-35, as their inside duo of Johnson and Kerusch owned the offensive glass.  Indian Hills called a timeout with 13:24 to play, and started the long hard climb back into the game.  The Warriors put a full court press on Itawamba the lead to four on a number of occasions.  But, every time they got close their inability to keep Itawamba off the glass came back to haunt them.  It was a six point game, 54-48, with Itawamba leading when the Indians hit a cold stretch, while Indian Hills scored six straight capped by a deflected inbounds pass by Rico Harris that went in the hoop to tie it at 54 with 4:30 to play.


At this point, Indian Hills Dwight Hardy and Kerusch put their teams on their respective backs.  Hardy scored the last 10 points of regulation for the Warriors including a 10 foot pull-up with :06 seconds to play.  Kerusch scored eight (six on offensive boards) to keep the teams knotted at 64-all as the buzzer sounded.  In the overtime both teams traded buckets over the first four minutes and it was still tied at 70-all when Kerusch scored his last points on a turnaround to give Itawamba a 72-70 lead with one minute to play.  That set up some last minute heroics for the Indian hills backcourt.  Hardy was fouled on a drive and hit both free throws to tie it again at 72.  Itawamba point guard 5-foot-10 Anthony Brock took it to the hoop, but saw his lay-in roll off the rim, but was fouled.  He made the first free throw to put Itawamba up by one, but missed the second (his only miss of the day) and Indian Hills brought down the board and called time out with :30 to play.  They set up their play, but Itawamba for the first time all day came out in a zone trying to take away the Hills penetration game, but as Rico Harris drove toward the free throw line they left Buycks wide open in the corner and the 6-foot-2 combo drained a three with six seconds to go.  Anthony Brock rushed up the court, but came up short on a runner at as the buzzer sounded to give Indian Hills a 75-73 victory over the squad from Mississippi.


Indian Hills was led by their dynamic back court duo as Hardy finished with 26 points and Buycks added 24 points in the win.  6-foot-7 Leon Powell was the only other Warrior in double figures with 14 points.  Itawamba was led by Kerusch with 26 points and 10 rebounds, while 6-foot-6 Santez Johnson added 20 points and Brock finished with 15 points in the heartbreaking loss.


This was the final game in the "Sweet 16", and completed the matchups for the quarterfinals that start Wednesday.  Here's the quarterfinal matchups:


Quarterfinal No. 1 - Salt Lake (Utah) (30-3) - Southeastern Illinois (27-8)


Quarterfinal No. 2 - Three Rivers (Mo.) (28-6) - Eastern Arizona (28-5)


Quarterfinal No. 3 - Seward County (Kan.) (30-5) - Northeastern Oklahoma (26-8)


Quarterfinal No. 4 - South Plains (Tex.) (27-5) - Indian Hills (Ia.) (27-8)

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