The North Platte Community College men’s basketball team advanced to the finals of the Region IX Tournament Tuesday with a 84-59 win over the Northeastern Junior College Plainsmen. The championship game appearance will be the fourth in North Platte college program history.
The Knights jumped out to an early lead in the ballgame and never looked back.
The Plainsmen (12-21) were riding a hot streak as the Cinderella team of the tournament after knocking off north No. 2 seed Sheridan College and south No. 3 seed Laramie County Community College in the first two rounds.
But the Knights (28-5) got the job done defensively to start the game, holding the Plainsmen to only 26 points in the first half. Meanwhile, the Knights scored 46 first-half points, led by Aboubacar Casse with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
The second half was more of the same as the Knights were able to keep the Plainsmen at bay on defense and hit timely buckets.
For the game, the Knights held the Plainsmen to 31 percent from the field and only 19 percent from the three-point line while forcing 16 turnovers.
The Knights also dominated the glass, out-rebounding the taller Plainsmen 40-30. the Knights grabbed 18 offensive rebounds, nine from Casse alone.
The Knights were balanced offensively, with four players in double figures. Casse finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds, Tim Simmons had 17 points, Ethan Montalvo had 15 points, Jake Maslo had 10 points and Damon Brown chipped in seven assists.
“I am very excited for our guys,” head coach Kevin O’Connor said. “We talked about throwing the first punch and we did that tonight. Now we have one more game to win the championship.”
The championship game is at 7 p.m. Wednesday at 7 p.m. CST, an hour earlier than originally scheduled.
The Knights will face the Otero Junior College Rattlers (26-7, 11-5 Region IX South). The Knights and Rattlers have split two meetings this year, with each team winning on their home court. The Rattlers won the first match-up 75-61 and the Knights won the second 63-56.