The #21-ranked North Platte Community College Knights (30-5) men’s basketball team advanced to the round of 16 as they defeated Mineral Area College Cardinals 76-50 in the opening round of the NJCAA DI Basketball National Championship. The Knights also won their 30th win of the year, a milestone the program has never reached.
The Knights advance to play the Iowa Western Reivers (31-2) tomorrow, Tuesday March 19 at 2 p.m.
The Knights started the game slow as their shots didn’t fall. But they were solid defensively keeping themselves in the game and not allowing the Cardinals to gain any separation.
A late run by the Knights gave them a 26-23 lead at intermission. Reath Jiech and Tim Simmons led the Knights with eight first half points despite Jiech being on the bench for most of the first half with two fouls. The Cardinals were led by D’Angelo Tucker in the half with nine points.
At the start of the second half, the Knights came out firing and stretched their lead behind the hot shooting of Simmons and Ethan Montalvo along with continued defensive pressure.
The Knights forced 20 turnovers and scored 23 points off of them. The Knights were able to create shots for each other as they finished with 21 assists on 24 baskets behind eight from Montalvo and seven from Damon Brown.
Montalvo finished with 14 points and led the team with nine rebounds to go along with the eight assists. Simmons finished with 24 points on 9 of 13 shooting. Ben Wilson also contributed eight points and eight rebounds.
Shaquille Boga led the Cardinals with 16 points.
“We played solid defensively the whole game. The run five minutes into the second half getting the lead into double figures was key,” said head coach Kevin O’Connor. “The 21 assists on 24 baskets speaks to the unselfish of our team and their ability to play off each other.”
If the Knights defeat the Iowa Western Reivers they will advance to the quarterfinals on Thursday March 21 at noon against the winner of #9 seed Northwest Florida State and #8 seed New Mexico Junior College.