The North Platte Community College (20-5) men’s basketball team knocked off the defending Region IX Champion Saturday, nipping the Otero Rattlers (19-6) 63-56.
It was a hard fought game with several lead changes in the second half. The Knights gained some momentum with an ‘and one’ by sophomore Reath Jiech that stretched the lead to six points with under four minutes to play.
“I went up with the mindset of dunking the ball and got fouled so made sure I made the lay-up,” Jiech said.
The Knights missed some free throws down the stretch to give the Rattlers hope but got key defensive stops and defensive rebounds to put the game away as Ethan Montalvo hit four free throws to ice the game.
“I thought it was a really good basketball game between two teams that competed hard. We were fortunate to win by hitting some big shots,” head coach Kevin O’Connor said.
The Knights are now 10-3 in Region IX play.
The Knights struggled toin the first half, shooting 35 percent from the field, but picked it up in the second, hitting 52 percent from the field, including three of three from the three-point line. Stingy defense was again the key for the Knights, who forced 20 turnovers and holding the Rattlers to 26 percent shooting from the three-point line.
Ethan Montalvo scored 14 points and grabbed 9 rebounds and Damon Brown had 14 points for North Platte. The Knights also got double digit scoring from Tim Simmons and Reath Jiech, both with 10 points.
The Rattlers were led by both Kentwan Smith and Terrell Brown with 12 points.
The Knights stay home next week with three home conference games beginning Wednesday Feb. 13 at 7:30 p.m. starting with the McCook Community College Indians (5-18, 1-11 Region IX) for a rematch of a game the Knights won 63-47 earlier this year behind 19 points from Tim Simmons.
On Friday Feb. 15 at 7:30 p.m. the Knights take on the Southeast Community College Storm (15-9), who the Knights knocked off 82-56. And then on Saturday Feb. 16 at 3 p.m., the Central Community College Raiders (12-11) come to town looking to avenge a 75-74 loss to the Knights.