HUTCHINSON, Kansas — 40 more minutes.
For the fourth time in the last 11 years, South Plains head coach Steve Green has led his team to the final Saturday of the NJCAA Men's Basketball National Tournament as the Texans look to capture the program's third national title tonight at 7 p.m. against the College of Southern Idaho.
Should the Texans come out victorious, Green will join an elite group of coaches who have won three national titles at the NJCAA Div. I level. The other three include Ronnie Arrow of San Jacinto Junior College, Allen Bradfield of Vincennes, and Joe O'Brien of Southeastern Community College.
After defeating five teams ranked inside the top 25 over a 15-day span, South Plains will look for one final performance from a group of players who are battle tested to date, and safe to say they've seen just about everything this season. Without their two leading scorers heading into Friday's semifinal matchup with Eastern Florida State, the Texans kept pounding the rock defeating the Titans in dominating fashion 89-76 to put themselves in contention for a national crown.
With that said, South Plains will now shift its focus to a Southern Idaho team who has somewhat of a similar story, as they overcame a 16-point deficit against third-seeded Vincennes Friday night to advance to Saturday's championship game. These two teams have tangoed before, meeting at the Fiesta Bowl Junior College Shootout in Phoenix on Dec. 29 with the Texans coming out victorious with a 69-65 victory over the Golden Eagles.
South Plains forced Southern Idaho to shoot a season-low 28.6 percent (20-70) from the floor and just 20.7 percent (6-29) from the 3-point line. The Texans also struggled to find a rhythm with the rock as they shot just 36 percent and were 7-for-33 from the 3-point line.
As winners of seven straight and nine of their last 10, South Plains continues to spread the ball around on the offensive end as they placed six players in double figures against the Eastern Florida State on Friday, shooting 54.2 percent from the field and 38.1 percent from behind the arc. Without leading scorer Jordan Brangers who has missed the tournament with a knee injury, freshmen Keith McGee and Christopher Orlina have picked up the slack in a major way, each scoring in double figures in all four games at the national tournament.
McGee led all scorers with 24 points against the Titans knocking down 8 of 15 attempts from the field and was 3 of 6 from the 3-point line. Orlina notched his second consecutive double-double on Friday, netting 16 boards to go along with 10 boards, stepping in for 6-foot-10 big man Isaiah Maurice, the Texans' leading scorer at the national tournament, who sat out Friday's game, serving a one-game suspension after drawing a pair of technical fouls against Connors State on Thursday. Maurice will return for the Texans on Saturday.
Averaging 102.5 points in four games at the national tournament, Southern Idaho has won 11 of its last 12 including wins over No. 2 Northwest Florida State and No. 3 Vincennes. The Golden Eagles bring a balanced offensive attack into Saturday's title game with six players averaging double figures this season.
Sophomore guard Charles Jones Jr. leads Southern Idaho with 19.5 points per game including a 23.5 points per game average in his last four outings. Freshman forward Khalid Thomas is second on the team with 14.5 points and 6.5 boards per game, shooting 55 percent from the field and 41.8 percent from the 3-point line.
The 2018 NJCAA Men's Basketball National Championship will be broadcast live via NJCAA TV and can be accessed by visiting spctexans.com and clicking on the 'Watch Games' tab at the top of the page, or by clicking on the link below. You can also tune in to the broadcast on KLVT Radio Levelland AM 1230 or by visiting klvtradio.com as Michael Wiiest will call the courtside action with pregame slated for 6:30 p.m.
Watch live: http://www.njcaatv.com/landing/index