HUTCHINSON, Kan. — The most successful season in Motlow College men’s basketball history ended Wednesday night with a 79-63 loss to College of Central Florida in the second round of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) national championship tournament in Hutchinson, Kan..
For the Bucks (26-4) it was a disappointing end to the school’s first trip to the national basketball tournament. Motlow entered as the No. 14 seed and beat Connors State College 70-66 in the opening round. The 26 wins is the second most in school history, surpassed only by the 28 wins in 2007-2008.
The Bucks, forced to play games on back-to-back days due to their seeding, gave the Patriots everything they had in the first half, which ended with Central Florida leading 35-32. There were six ties and 10 lead changes in the first half alone. However, in the second half the Patriots never trailed, stretching their halftime advantage to a nine-point lead in the first three minutes.
But the Bucks didn’t go easily, fighting their way back to within five points at 52-47 with less than 12 minutes to play. That would prove to be the closest Motlow would get though, as the Patriots went to the free-throw line over and over in the final 10 minutes and made the most of their opportunities.
Motlow’s defense was once again stellar, forcing the Patriots into 26 turnovers. However, the Bucks committed 20 turnovers themselves, made only 8-of-33 shots from 3-point range and were only 41 percent from the floor. Central Florida shot 62 percent from the field and hit 21-of-28 free throws.
From the start, it was clear that for Motlow to win it would have to connect on its 3-point opportunities. The Patriots controlled the paint and drove the lane, resulting in free throws and plus-one chances, while Motlow got very few looks inside the paint. The Bucks put a lot of teams away this season with 3-point shots, but Wednesday they simply didn’t go in on a consistent basis.
After the Patriots opened the scoring with a lob into the paint for a dunk, Motlow’s Chris Hawkins evened the score at two with a drive to the basket. Back-to-back buckets by Sean Gardner, including a 3-pointer, gave the Bucks a 7-4 lead with 16:40 to play in the first half.
Central Florida then went on an 11-2 run that gave them a 15-9 lead with 11 minutes remaining in the half. Raul Tutton’s 3-pointer pulled the Bucks within 15-12, and after five straight points by Hawkins, who finished the game with 11, the Bucks were back on top 17-15.
The lead continued to swap back and forth.
D.J. Jones, who led the Bucks with 12 points, hit a 3-pointer to give Motlow a 20-19 lead with 6:30 left in the half. J.C. Bonny’ 3-pointer with 4:30 on the clock pushed the Bucks to a 26-23 lead, and his two-point basket with 2:26 remaining before intermission gave Motlow its biggest lead of the game, 30-26.
The final lead for the Bucks came moments later when Hawkins connected to push Motlow back in front 32-31. From there, the Patriots scored the next 10 points and never trailed again. They led 41-32 with 18:07 left to play, and after Motlow pulled within five points a couple of times, Central Florida stretched the lead to 70-57 with five minutes remaining.
Jones added three steals and a pair of rebounds to his 12 points, and Hawkins had three rebounds to go along with his 11 points. Sean Gardner scored six points with three rebounds and led the Bucks with five assists. Bonny and Andre Brown each scored seven, and Raul Tutton, Jr. scored five points and had four rebounds.
Kerrell Davis hit a 3-point basket and added six rebounds, three assists and three steals. Perrin Buford added three points, while Kevonta Black, Jerron Washington, Darryl Bond and Sterling Smoak had two points each and Jeff Graham added one.
Central Florida dominated the rebounding battle 53-38 and had five players score in double figures, led by Rasham Suarez with 16 and Eugene McCrory with 15.
—From Motlow College reports