HUTCHINSON, Kansas — Motlow’s defense held Connors State without a field goal for more than 12 minutes of the second half and forced a critical turnover with five seconds left as the Bucks beat the Cowboys 70-66 in the opening round of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) championship tournament on Tuesday.
The No. 14 seeded Bucks (26-3) advance to the Sweet 16 round, where they will play No. 3 seed College of Central Florida at 6 p.m. Wednesday. The Patriots are 30-3 on the season and finished the regular season as the nation’s 8th-ranked team.
Although held to only four points for the game, Motlow’s Chris Hawkins hit the biggest shot — a running six-footer off the glass with 12 seconds remaining to break a 66-66 tie and give the Bucks the lead for good.
The Bucks hit five 3-point shots in the first half on their way to a 32-31 lead. The largest lead of the game for Motlow came with two minutes remaining in the half as an Andre Brown 3-pointer extended the Bucks’ advantage to 32-25. However, the Cowboys finished the half on a 6-0 run.
The second half was as close as any game could be, with the two teams swapping the lead, and tying the score, over and over again. Hawkins, who averaged 22 pointers per game was the MVP of the TCCAA/Region VII Tournament, picked up his third foul less than a minute into the second half and his fourth with 10 minutes to play.
It was J.C. Bonny who stepped up huge for Motlow in the final minutes, scoring 12 second-half points and leading the team overall with 14 points. He gave the Bucks a 56-54 lead with 8:30 on the clock with two free throws, and hit a 3-pointer with 6:40 remaining to break a 58-58 tie. Still, Motlow trailed 64-62 with 3:15 left to play.
Andre Brown’s rebound and put-back with 1:50 left to play gave Motlow a 66-64 lead, but a pair of Connors State free throws again tied the score with 90 seconds to play. Motlow’s defense then made the plays it had to make when it counted the most, and the Bucks extended their first trip to the national tournament for at least one more day.
D.J. Jones hit two first half 3-pointers and scored 12 points with five rebounds for Motlow, while Sean Gardner also hit two 3-pointers and scored 10 points. Kerrell Davis scored nine points with 10 rebounds and Perrin Buford also added nine points.
Brown finished with five points, Hawkins had four, Raul Tutton, Sterling Smoak and Jerron Washington each scored two, and Michael Tomlin had one. Jamarcus Weatherspoon led the Cowboys with 14 and Josh Cameron added 12.