HUTCHINSON, KA. — Jordan Brangers made the shot countless times.
Unaccompanied inside the 3,300 seat arena known as the Texan Dome adjacent Levelland, Texas. National championship banners hovering above as his sole witness.
Shot – after shot – after shot.
The sophomore from Radcliff, Kentucky prepped himself for the opportunity to keep the Texans' dreams of a third NJCAA Division I national title a reality.
Trailing 67-66 with 10.4 seconds remaining, Brangers took a pass from Josh Webster at midcourt up the left wing, rose up from 34-feet and drained a 3-ball with 5.3 ticks left to send the Texans to the 2017 NJCAA Final Four with a 69-67 win over Vincennes on Thursday at the Hutchinson Sports Arena.
"Honestly, there's been countless times, hundreds of times where I've made that shot just shooting in the gym by myself," said Brangers, who finished with 19 points, all of which came in the second half. "Just shooting deep shots. Backing up deeper and deeper, not knowing when that moment was going to come. And it's crazy to think, that shot finally came, and it was today."
South Plains struggled to find its rhythm offensively in the first half shooting just 36 percent from the floor and 28 percent from the perimeter. The Trailblazers didn't fare much better as they were held to a 39 percent mark from the floor and went 2-of-9 from the 3-point line despite taking a 33-32 lead into the break. Sophomore Justice Green tallied eight points for the Texans over the first 20 minutes while Vincennes' Isaiah Tisdale scored 15 of his game-high 21 points in the first half.
"I thought it was a really intense, hard-played game unlike any other we've probably been involved in this season," South Plains head coach Steve Green said. "This game I thought was determined on the defensive end. Real proud of our game plan against them which was to try and take Darrington out of the game, and I think we did a pretty good job."
Trading buckets to begin the second half, sophomore Roberto Gallinat gave the Texans a four-point advantage with a 3 with 14:45 remaining. The Trailblazers quickly answered with a 5-0 run to take a 48-46 lead on a Sehill Mouliom' layup with 13:43 to play. Brangers put the Texans back up 50-48 with a trey from the top of the key at the 12:07 mark.
Tisdale deadlocked the contest at 56 with a 12-foot jumper with 7:21 left in regulation. South Plains answered with an 8-2 run as Montell McRae converted a pair of free throws to put the Texans up 64-58 with 4:26 left. Nate Hansen hit a runner with 1:54 remaining to bring the Trailblazers within one 66-65. With neither team able to score over the next minute and a half, Tisdale put Vincennes up one 67-66 before Brangers hit his nation-leading 143rd 3-pointer to send the Texans to the Final Four at 8 p.m. on Friday against Eastern Florida State.
"Honestly, when it left my fingers it felt like it was going in," Brangers said. "I was more relieved when it went through the net. I knew there was one guy on me, and then someone else came at me from the right side and put a hand up, but luckily it fell for us. Knowing we can make those type of shots, not only me but my teammates is a good feeling. That was hands down the biggest shot I've ever taken in my life. It still hasn't sunk in I hit a shot that's going to take South Plains College to the Final Four.
McRae and Gallinat would each finish the contest with 11 points while Justice Green and Grantham Gillard each had eight. The Texans shot 48 percent from the field and 71 percent from behind the arc in the second half while holding the Trailblazers to a 1-for-9 mark from the 3-point line over the final 20 minutes. Chris Darrington and Moullom each finished with 10 points for the Trailblazers and Nate Hansen, Rade Kukobat and Romero Gill each had six.
"I've watched basketball all my life, and I think teams that win national championships do something out of character, somebody just goes off," Steve Green said. "My first team that won it up here, I had a guard, Nick Okorie who in the final game just was unstoppable. Of course then the next time Marshall Henderson - blitzed them. And he(Brangers) is following in those guys' footsteps, and he hit the shot tonight."