By Ken McDowell
The wins continue to pile up for the Northeastern Junior College (NJC) Plainsmen as they picked up their eighth straight victory Tuesday with an explosive 99-73 Region IX South victory Tuesday over the McCook, Neb. Community College Indians in the Bank of Colorado Event Center.
NJC improves to 17-6 overall and most important, 7-0 in Region IX South with a firm hold on first place. McCook falls to 9-13 overall and 1-5 in Region IX South.
The Plainsmen set the tone early in Tuesday's contest by shooting lights out from the floor by taking an early 7-0 lead. Freshman guard Dalton Knecht got the offense rolling with a trey, followed by a bucket by sophomore Mohamed Diallo and a tip-in by sophomore Andrew Ferrin.
NJC's lead stretched to 23-10 on a trey by Diallo and 31-16 on three-pointers by Knecht and sophomore and Sterling's own Wade Kellogg.
The Plainsmen continued to soar to a 50-30 halftime lead, and did not let up in the second half, leading by as many as 33 points at one time. Freshman Jared Adams of the Plainsmen put the final touches on McCook with a pair of dunks, and NJC ran out the clock with its 99-73 win.
NJC scorched the nets by shooting nearly 62% from the floor and placed five players in double-figures, led by Knecht and Adams with 18 points each, Diallo 16 and Ferrin and freshman Cyler Kane-Johnson 12 apiece.
Bagley dished out 10 assists and Adams led NJC in rebounds with 9.
NJC Coach Eddie Trenkle was impressed with the way his team played on both ends of the court.
"The big things we try to work on is our offense and defense coming together," he said. "Getting defensive stops leads to easier and better offense and I think our kids are really buying into that.
"We also do a great job finding the open man and that's how we were able to build that big lead in the first half. I'm just really proud of everything our guys are doing right now."
Trenkle added that the Plainsmen have that right kind of chemistry to be a good basketball team.
"I think honestly this is the best team I've coached when it comes to guys finding each other and liking each other and understanding how awesome it is when everyone is a part of the team," he said.
"Every coach I talk to agrees that we share the basketball and do other things well. That's what is separating this team from a lot of their competition right now."
The Plainsmen will host North Platte, Neb. Community College Saturday on Hoops Homecoming at NJC in another big Region IX South matchup.
North Platte is 6-13 overall and 1-4 in Region IX South. The Plainsmen NJC won at North Platte 75-71 on Jan. 14.
Following that contest the Plainsmen will go on a crucial four-game road trip that will take them to Lamar Community College Tues., Feb. 11; Western Nebraska Community College Thurs., Feb. 13; Otero Junior College Tues., Feb. 18 and Trinidad State College Fri., Feb. 21 before returning home Sat., Feb. 22 to host Lamar.