Coffeyville, Cowley to feature in all-Jayhawk East national championship
This will be the first all-Kansas national championship since 1953.
HUTCHINSON – Following the Cowley Tigers' dramatic comeback win over the No. 1 overall seed Mineral Area on Thursday, Cowley head coach Tommy DeSalme said to Coffeyville head coach Jay Herkelman, "Go get 'em, Jayhawk East!"
Guess what? It will be an all-Jayhawk East national championship Saturday night.
The No. 10 overall seed Coffeyville Red Ravens took down the sixth seed Chipola Indians 66-63 in the NJCAA Div. I men's national basketball tournament semifinals Friday night at the Sports Arena.
Fellow Jayhawk East competitor Cowley defeated Ranger 116-97 in the earlier game, meaning the Tigers will meet the Red Ravens again to settle a series split from the regular season.
The Tigers also set another record in the win over Ranger. Cowley now owns the new record for most 3-pointers made in a tournament. They surpassed the previous record by five more many shots, and still have one game in the tourney left.
"Two teams coming from the Jayhawk East playing the finals, it's unbelievable," Herkelman said. "We're 1-1 in the conference against each other. So, the tie breaker is going to be for the national championship. Just unbelievable."
Cowley won the NJCAA Region VI tournament by beating the Hutchinson Blue Dragons 116-107 and made their first national tournament appearance in 64 years, according to a release by Cowley College sports information.
At the half, Chipola led 29-28, and the Red Ravens had to change up their scheme.The Indians outsized the Red Ravens with 7-foot-3-inch Florida State commit Naheem McLeod, 6-foot-10-inch forward Jo Smith, and 6-foot-8-inch forward Nae'qwan Tomlin. The Red Ravens adjusted and used a 14-2 run to burst out of the half.
"It freed up (Tylor Perry) and (Love Bettis) to move around a little bit," Herkelman said. "It worked. Then, (Chipola) made that hell of a run. We made some substitutions and it didn't work out as good with some turnovers. I mean, it's a final-four game. They're not going to lay down. They're going to keep fighting, and they're a good team. So, we just made some adjustments there at halftime."
The Indians responded, however, with a 10-0 run of their own with Carlos Lemus capping the hot streak off with a straight-away 3-pointer. Lemus had 19 first-half points but was limited to eight in the second half.
Down the stretch, Bettis hit a 3-pointer to regain the lead for Coffeyville. From then on, the light shined on Perry and his free-throws. In the final two minutes, Perry went four for four from the charity stripe and hit a high-arcing tear-drop over McLeod to keep the Red Ravens ahead 65-62 with 1:03 to go in the ball game.
"He missed all his shots early," Herkelman said. "He was standing in front of me when they were shooting free throws in the first half and I said, "well, looks like you got all the misses out of the way. So, we're good the rest of the way now.'
"He struggled early, and he was getting upset with himself, but he made some big shots in the second half as did Love Bettis. Love Bettis really played well and made shots."
Bettis finished with the team-high 17 points on six of 17 shooting, including five of eight from downtown. Perry had 14 points and four assists while big man Blaise Keita finished with a double-double 11 points and 11 rebounds, despite not being the tallest player on the floor.
"We've seen size (in our league)," Herkelman said, "but that quality of players, I mean, that's probably comparable to Hutch. Hutch just doesn't have a seven-three guy."
Chipola's leading scorer Lemus finished with 27 points and five rebounds. Jaeden Zackery aided with 17 and three to wrap up the Indians' two lone double-digit scorers in the national semifinal loss.
The last time two Kansas teams faced off in the national title game was back in 1953. Coffeyville's last national championship appearance is dated back to 2002 where the Red Ravens lost 82-81 to Dixie State College of Utah.
In the regular season, Coffeyville beat Cowley 107-85 in the first meeting on March 6. Later in the month, Cowley took round two and beat the Red Ravens 86-77. The national championship is set for Saturday at 6 p.m. Central Standard Time at the Sports Arena. The game will also be livestreamed on the NJCAA Network.