Big night from Johnson leads Cougars to win
Cody Johnson finished with a double-double of 25 points and 18 rebounds, but it was his blocked shot with a second to play in regulation that helped the Cougars come back to drop Northwest Kansas Technical College 96-85 in overtime on Friday at Cougar Palace.
Johnson's block came seconds after Willie Mangum connected on three free throws to tie the game at 76-76 with 9.2 seconds to play in regulation. It was then Johnson that blocked a shot by Northwest Kansas' Gian Clavell to send the game into overtime.
In the extra period, the Cougars energy was enlivened by an enthusiastic crowd in outscoring the Mavericks 20-9 for the Cougars to even the Cougars' record at 5-5.
WNCC coach Russ Beck said that his team won a dog fight and persevered when they had to.
"We will take it any way we can get it right know. Sometimes you just have to gut it out and find a way to win despite the circumstances," Beck said. "I told the guys that that team was very, very scrappy and they are well coached and they have some talented players. I am happy with the win. We really turned it up in overtime. We had a very clutch play in terms of us talking about it in the huddle during a time out where they were really jumping to block shots. Willie got his guy in the air and picked up the foul, which was huge with under 10 seconds to play. That is a tough situation to be in to step to the free throw line and knock down three that you absolutely need. Then we come down and got a block and forced a miss to get to overtime. In overtime, we outscored them 20-9 and we really got pumped up."
The game was an epic battle between two talented teams. WNCC started the contest on a tear, jumping to a 13-3 and later a 19-6 lead behind five 3-pointers, including a game-opening trey from Rich Williams and two from Mangum. Northwest Kansas came back to cut the deficit to 25-21 only watch the Cougars outscore the Mavericks 16-8 on 3-pointers by Charles Ward and Zach Clemens for a 41-32 halftime lead.
In the second half, the Cougars built a 50-39 lead before Northwest scored eight straight to cut the deficit to 50-47. WNCC, once again, pushed the lead back to near double digits on a couple occasions. Northwest never gave up and finally tied the contest at 59-59 with 6:25 to play. Moments later, the Mavericks took their first lead of the game at 62-61 on a bucket by Talan Whitaker.
Northwest seemed in control, leading 74-69 with under a minute to play. That was when WNCC refueled its energy. Ward hit a jumper to cut the lead to 74-71. After a missed free throw, Johnson nailed two free throws with 20.1 seconds to play. Clavell then put the Mavericks up 76-73 with 16.8 seconds to play. Mangum then came down and was fouled putting up a 3-pointer with 9.2 seconds to tie the game.
The overtime period saw the Cougars go on an 8-0 run to go up 86-78 on two buckets by Youssoupha Kane. Northwest cut the lead to 86-82 with 2:00 minutes to play before WNCC scored the final nine points for the win.
The Cougars had four players finish in double figures. Johnson had the big night with is 25 points, but Mangum and Ward gave off the bench to chip in 20 points each. Rich Williams also came up big, scoring 11 points from his starting position.
Beck said that Johnson had a big game.
"Cody had a really big double-double with 25 points and 18 rebounds," he said. "He also had that huge block, but the most critical thing was his 8 of 8 from the free throw line. When you can get that from one of your big men, you are in business."
The big difference in the game, however, was shooting. Northwest was 34 percent from the field but were just 29 percent from behind the arc (13 of 44). The Cougars show 49 percent in the first half and then were just 29 percent in the second half. But, in the extra period, the Cougars were hitting 62 percent of their shots for the win.
WNCC, 5-5, will wrap up the first semester next weekend when they compete in the Northwest Wyoming tournament in Powell, Wyo. Beck said he wants his team to finish the season on a high note and then head into second semester with some momentum.
"We just want to finish this semester on a high note because as we look around the league, there are a lot of teams that have nice records like 10-2, 9-1, and 8-2 but they have played six or seven jayvee teams," he said. "We have played three out of the last four national champions and everybody that we have played in November has been ranked last year. We feel like we are battle tested, been in some situations with some tough teams, we lost some and we won some, but we hope down the stretch as we improve that this team has a chance to compete for a championship because of the schedule that we have played."
NW Kansas 31 45 9 85
WNCC (5-5) 42 34 20 96
Kayman Garrett 3, Gian Clavell 26, Talan Whitaker 10, Juan Ortiz 3, Markees Walker 25, Marcus Walden 3, Nicholas Riley 7, Lamar Burton 2, Jeffrey Burgos 6.
Zach Clemens 3, Quante Cooley 4, Rich Williams 11, Willie Mangum 20, Trey Moore 2, Isaiah Castellaw 2, Charles Ward 20, Cody Johnson 25, Youssoupha Kane 3, Chad Calcaterra 4.
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