HUTCHINSON, Kansas --- The Holmes Community College Bulldogs fell here in the opening round of the NJCAA National Tournament today to the Western Nebraska Community College Cougars, 87-73.
With the loss, the Bulldogs' season came to an end with a record of 24-5. The Cougars advanced to play Northwest Florida tomorrow.
The Bulldogs took an early 2-0 lead on a basket from Javon Franklin with 18:45 on an assist from Kassim Nicholson. The Cougars tied the game at two with 18:02 to play and took the lead with a 4-2 lead with 17:26 left in the first half. Franklin made the score 6-5 Cougars with 15:41 left to play in the half. The Cougars increased the lead to 10-5 with 14:53 left in the first half. A Franklin dunk made the score 12-11 Cougars with 13:28 left to play in the first half.
The Cougars stretched the lead to eight at 19-11 with 11:18 left in the half. The lead was 10 with 10 minutes to play in the half. The Bulldogs cut the lead to six, 24-18, on a tip-in from Justin Johnson with 8:48 left in the half. The Cougars stretched it to an 11-point lead with 6:19 to go in the first half before going up 13 with 3:10 to go in the half before the Bulldogs battled back just before half and trailed 44-38 at halftime. Mikkel Norment scored five points down the stretch on a three-pointer and a two-pointer and Winford Ross had a two-pointer down the stretch to cut into the lead.
In the first half, the Bulldogs shot 44.4 percent from the floor (16-of-36), 20 percent from the three-point line (2-of-10) and 66.7 percent from the free-throw line (4-of-6) while the Cougars shot 50 percent from the floor, 29.4 percent from the three-point line and 87.5 percent from the free-throw line.
The Cougars led by 10 with 16:43 left to play in the game and 13 with 14:30 to play before the Bulldogs mounted a comeback. A three-pointer from Norment and a two-pointer from Nicholson cut the lead to six, 58-52, with 13:14 left to play. A three-pointer from Trevais Spencer cut the Cougars' lead to 59-55 with 11:51 left to play and 59-57 on a Johnson jumper with 10:56 left. Norment then hit a three with 10:34 left to give the Bulldogs the 60-59 lead before the Cougars retook the lead at 61-60 with 10:20 to play.
Western Nebraska increased the lead to 12 before the Bulldogs cut it to five at 74-69 on two free throws from Spencer with 4:33 to play in the game. A Nicholson jumper cut the lead to five at 76-71 with 3:10 to play before the Cougars pulled away.
Holmes Head Coach Jason Flanigan said the team that he saw all year didn't show up today versus Western Nebraska.
"I thought some of my guys came to play today but to beat a good team like Western Nebraska we needed everybody to come to the game today," Flanigan said. "Everybody didn't play well. I'm proud of these two guys sitting next to me (Johnson and Norment). They worked hard all year.
"I'm extremely disappointed in the loss today," he added. "I thought we didn't hustle like we are capable of hustling. We gave up some open shots, and it cost us big time. I wish these guys well. My sophomores I'm very proud of them. They need to finish up in the classroom and on to their next destination. I'm excited about being out here. I know it's over with, but we'll be back out here."
Flanigan said the Bulldogs didn't shoot free throws good enough to win the game and did not guard the three's or keep the Cougars off the boards. "You can't shoot that in a national tournament game. We gave up the open three's and that was the biggest thing today. We also didn't rebound well. I thought they got some offensive rebounds and got another shot at it and another possession. Hopefully they'll learn from this and they are better next year."
Sophomore Justin Johnson, who finished with 17 points and six rebounds shooting 50 percent from the floor, was proud of his effort today. "I felt I gave my best to the team," Johnson said. "This is my first time to experience something like this. This was a big scene and good environment.
"Listening to coach, playing defense, hustling and rebounding (got the Bulldogs to the national tournament)," he said. "We weren't playing defense like we usually play defense. That's what got us."
Sophomore MIkkel Norment, who finished with 18 points and who shot 50 percent from the floor and 4-of-9 from the three-point line, is thankful for the opportunity to get to national tournament. "I thank God for putting me in this situation because I never thought I'd be out here," Norment said. "I also thank the coaches for putting us in the best situation getting out here to the nationals. It's been a good experience hanging together. I also want to thank my teammates too.
"I shot pretty well," he added. "I missed five three throws and those could have put us back into the game. I'll take blame for that."
Franklin scored 11 points in 19 minutes. Spencer had eight rebounds while Nicholson and Franklin had six each. The Cougars put four people in double figures with Jervay Green having 23 points and Vinnie Shahid had 22.
In the game, the Bulldogs shot 36.7 percent from the floor, 20 percent from the three-point line and 58.8 percent from the free-throw line while the Cougars shot 50.9 percent from the floor, 35.5 percent from the three-point line and 66.7 percent from the free-throw line.