NMMI Sports Press
Despite leading for most of the way, the Broncos fell to WJCAC rival New Mexico Junior College 66-60 in the first game of 2017.
It was a low-scoring, sloppy game in Cahoon Armory Monday, and while missed free-throws were the biggest factor in the NMMI loss, other things played a part.
“There were other plays throughout the game in the first half that came back to bite us,” said Bronco coach Ralph Davis. “Like the first play of the game was a turnover. All those small things hurt. Late in the game, we were up by seven with 4:30 left, you take care of business and free throw it and there you go. There’s the game right there.”
Neither team looked like they were quite ready to play early, with turnovers on both sides. Bronco DeMarco Enoch didn’t put the first points on the board until 1:30 into the game on a free throw. The two teams then traded the lead until 16:08, when the Thunderbirds tied it at 5-5 and continued with a six-point run.
But NMMI battled back, going up 16-15 on free throws by Maurice Coleman, then stretched the lead to 22-15 on a crowd-pleasing dunk by Chukuka Emili. The Broncos stretched their lead to 11 on another two by Emili, and despite a T-Bird comeback, led 34-27 at the half.
The second half started out back and forth, with NMJC picking up an extra point here and there on three treys. With 8:26 left in the game, Thunderbird Shawn Olden tied the game at 44-all.
The Broncos came back with Davis Steelman’s fifth 3-pointer of the game to go up 47-44, and then once again made it a seven point margin, 54-47, with 4:43 remaining.
But NMJC began hitting from the charity stripe — they were 18-for-21 in the second half and .697 overall — and while they were scoring from the line, the Broncos only managed six points in the last 4:30.
Two points with 1:06 left in the game by T-Bird Roosevelt Smart was pretty much the nail in the coffin, as they stretched the lead to 61-56.
“They did a tremendous job down the stretch of hitting free throws,” Davis said. “So hat’s off to them. They needed this win desperately. They were 0-2, we were 1-1 and they did a great job of fighting back.”
Olden led the scoring with 22 points and Smart had 21. Steelman led the Broncos with 17 points while Coleman picked up 13.
NMMI played a box-and-one defense and slowed the game down, with Emili picking up 13 rebounds. But it was the offense that was lacking.
“We’ve always played pretty good defense,” Davis said. “It’s always been our ability to score. That’s the thing we’re kind of lacking right now. Defensively, we’ve been fine since Day 1, but we just have to be able to capitalize on those stops and things like that. That’s what it comes down to.”
Davis was proud his team played NMJC so close and hard, and knows his team is better than their 5-11, 1-2 record.
“You look at our record and see 5-11, but anybody who knows us knows we’re better than that,” he said. “I’m glad they were able to see that. You can get blinded by things like that. These guys can play and we have a good group of kids and we still feel very confident with what we can do.”
NMMI next heads to Western Texas College to face the 9-6, 1-1 Westerners Thursday and all it will take to win, Davis said, is hitting the basket.
“We shot 35 percent in our own gym and 55 percent from the free-throw line in our own gym,” he said. “We shot a ton of free throws over the course of this week. We just got to do a better job.”