South Plains Takes NJCAA Title

Nick Okorie leads way with game-high 29 points

March 25, 2008

By Van Coleman


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


It was a week of survival of the fittest and South Plains proved they belonged at the top with hard fought win over Salt Lake.


It was an excellent week of highly competitive basketball in Hutchinson (Kan.) that has had some real wars on the hardwood. It definitely was a week where the fittest would survive. Maybe that's why South Plains and Salt Lake ended up in the finals versus each other. They survived because they were the two fittest squads, not the most talented squads, and had the ability to gut it out to win close games. Here's a look at the Championship Game and the All-Tournament team:


NJCAA National Championship Game: South Plains (Tex.) 67 - Salt Lake (Utah) 56


It looked like Salt Lake was going to run away with this one early as they ran out to a 17-4 lead over South Plains before the Texans caught fire from the field; after missing their first eight shots and 17 of their first 19.


The first Texan to light it up was 6-foot-1 sophomore guard Nick Okorie. Scoreless for the first 12 minutes, the Texas Tech commitment scored the first of his game-high 29 points with 7:57 before halftime. He added seven more points in a half-ending 20-5 run, as South Plains came back to overtake Salt Lake 24-22 at the intermission.


Neither team shot well as South Plains was just 10-of-32 (31.3 percent) from the field and Salt Lake was 9-of-33 (27.2 percent).


South Plains opened the second half with an 11-0 run to jump out to a 35-22 lead, a lead that Salt Lake just couldn't find the range to cut into. As South Plains built their lead to 56-40 and the closest that Salt Lake got to down the stretch was nine points as South Plains rolled.


South Plains top gun was Okorie, who made 12-of-22 shots, including four 3-pointers. He got solid support from 6-foot-4 David Tairu with 14 points and Tournament MVP Jonathan Hall who added 13 points in the title game. Sale Lake was led by DaVell Jackson with 19 points and 8 rebounds, while Andy Palmer added ten points in the loss.


NJCAA All-Tournament Team:


Dwight Buycks 6-foot-1 CG - Indian Hills

Dwight Hardy 5-foot-11 CG - Indian Hills

Will Bynum 6-foot-3 SG - Eastern Arizona

Reggie Chamberlain 6-foot-0 PG - Seward County

Darko Cohadarevic 6-foot-9 PF - Seward County

Brian Green 5-foot-11 CG - Salt Lake

DaVell Jackson 6-foot-1 CG - Salt Lake

Jonathan Hall 6-foot-4 WF - South Plains

Nick Okorie 6-foot-1 CG - South Plains

Mario Little 6-foot-5 SG - Chipola

Bryan Sherrer 6-foot-0 PG - Three Rivers

Eric Tramiel 6-foot-7 PF - Paris


William B. French MVP of the Tournament

Jonathan Hall - South Plains


Coach of the Tournament

Steve Green - South Plains


Bud Obee Outstanding Small Player Award

Brian Green - Salt Lake


Sesher Sportsmanship Award

Nikola Kecman 6-foot-9 PF - Eastern Arizona

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