In a hard-fought battle that came down to the final seconds, the McLennan Highlanders fell to the Northwest Florida State Raiders 96-91 this afternoon in the second round of the NJCAA Division I Basketball National Championship in Hutchinson, Kansas.
The Highlanders struggled in the first half. Northwest Florida State took the first double-digit lead at 21-11 with 11:25 to go in the first half. McLennan cut the lead to seven several times but the Raiders pulled away down the stretch and led by 17 at the break, 52-35.
Northwest Florida continued to pull away in the second half, leading by as many as 22 with 11:52 remaining in the game. But the Highlanders weren't done. McLennan began to chip away and cut the lead to 10, 85-75, with 6:04. With the momentum and the crowd on their side, McLennan continued to rally and took the 91-90 lead on a Shannon Bogues 3-pointer with 59 seconds to play. Shadell Millinghaus made a 3-pointer with 41 second on the clock to give the Raiders the lead for good and they added three points in the final 10 seconds to seal the win.
"Our guys fought hard the whole game and never quit. It was a really, really good game. The ball just didn't bounce our way at the end," head coach Kevin Gill said. "We want to give those guys credit; they are a really good team. They made shots and we missed shots. We weren't playing the McLennan way and we got down but we didn't quit."
"We really started feeding off the crowd and playing the McLennan way toward the end. It was just a game that we said 'if we are going to lose, we are going to leave everything on the floor' and our guys did that," Gill said.
"This loss really hurts us. Our aspirations were to at least get to the final four. We had to play the No. 2 seed and our chances were just as good as theirs. They have a really good team and we also have a team that we can be proud of. We were a little tentative to start the game out but once we settled down and realized we just have to play the way we've been taught to play, our guys came through," Gill said. "We have a special group of guys. Not only are they good basketball players but they are a joy to be around and I wouldn't trade them for any group in the world."
The Highlanders end their season with an overall record of 28-6.
Northwest Florida State 96, McLennan 91
McLennan: Ben Nakwaasah 3 4-4 10; Antonio Wade 1 5-6 7; K.J. Boyd 1 0-0 2; Jerami Grace 8 0-1 22; Shannon Bogues 6 2-4 15; Aundre Jackson 11 1-1 25; Zach Charles 1 1-1 3; Fred Jackson 1 1-3 3; Rick Curry 2 0-2 4; Totals: 34 14-22 91.
Northwest Florida State: Moustapha Diagne 3 0-0 6; Shadell Millinghaus 7 5-10 21; Jared Wilson-Frame 8 3-3 25; Dante Sterling 1 0-0 2; Keith Pinckney 1 0-0 3; Jeromy Rodriguez 3 2-2 9; Daryl Edwards 8 1-2 19; Therence Mayimba 4 0-0 10; William Pfister 1 0-0 2; Totals: 36 11-17 96.
3-pointers: McLennan 9 (Grace 6, A. Jackson 2, Bogues 1), Northwest Florida State 13 (Wilson-Frame 6, Edwards 2, Millinghaus 2, Mayimba 2, Pinckney 1); Total fouls: McLennan 16, Northwest Florida State 20; Halftime score: Northwest Florida State 52, McLennan 35; Record: McLennan 28-6.