The No. 5 ranked and undefeated North Platte Community College men's basketball team traveled to Cougar Palace Friday to take on the Western Nebraska Community College Cougars (10-7) and emerged with a hard fought victory, 75-68.
The game was back and forth in the first quarter as both teams struggled to find an offensive rhythm, leading to 31-31 tie at half as sophomore Ethan Montalvo was held to only two points.
The Knights played 10 players in the first half as they struggled through foul trouble.
In the second half, the Knights were more aggressive and attacked the Cougars. Montalvo was able to get to the free throw line 10 times and made eight to get himself going. Two threes from the corner gave Montalvo a game high 18 points. The Knights were able to seal the game from the free throw line to preserve the victory.
"The coaches encouraged me to keep shooting," said Montalvo "they have confidence in me. I thought our team dug deep in the win and we really came together."
The Knights also got 11 points from freshman Marco Pascolo and a double-double from freshman Aireon Porter who finished with 10 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks. Western Nebraska was led by Youssoupha Kane who finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds. Tyler Crosbie (13 points), Brandon Morley (13 points) and Diane Mitchell (12 points) were all in double figures for the Cougars.
"I am very proud of our team's effort," said head coach Kevin O'Connor. "We continue tomorrow with a very good Eastern Wyoming College.
Win over Eastern Wyoming
On Saturday, North Platte gained a 79-69 victory over the Eastern Wyoming College Lancers (8-8).
The Knights (14-0) got off to a hot start to open up an 18 point lead in the early going of the first half. The Lancers would not go quietly and battled back to allow the Knights to only take a 39-30 lead into the locker room.
The Lancers came out firing in the second half and continued their hot play to take a one point lead over the Knights with eight minutes to play.
The Knights turned up the pressure on the Lancers and use an 18-4 run to take a 13 point lead with four minutes remaining. The Knights would hold on to preserve the 10 point victory.
"I am proud of our guys for finding a way to win," head coach Kevin O'Connor said. "Give Eastern Wyoming a ton of credit, they really played well tonight. It is good to get two road wins after such a long break over Christmas."
The Knights were led by sophomore Ethan Montalvo who finished with a game-high 19 points. Tim Simmons (17 points), Marco Pascolo (16 points) and Cameron Williams (14 points) were also in double-figures for the Knights. Mark Hall and Jonathan Doss each had 13 points to pace the Lancers.
"Our defense really stepped up to help us win," said Simmons. "Also we really shared the ball well and found each other in the right spots."
North Platte starts the year with seven straight road games, continuing to Cheyenne Wednesday to take on Laramie County Community College (12-5, 3-1 South Sub-Region), then heading to Beatrice versus Southeast Community College (14-5) and Columbus versus Community College (14-2).
The Knights return home Wednesday, Jan. 29 to face McCook Community College (11-4, 3-1 South Sub-Region) at 7:30 p.m.