NMMI Sports Press
The Broncos almost earned their second-conference victory of the season Friday, falling 91-88 to Midland in a season finale that came down to a final shot. And while NMMI did what they’ve done so often this season — give up a big lead late in the game — this time, the coaches questioned the foul shooting disparity, not their players’ intensity.
“I have a question,” said former Bronco head basketball coach Sean Schooley, “of how they can shoot 44 free throws; we can shoot 17; and it comes down to a three-point game.”
Current head coach Ralph Davis was a little kinder about the huge difference at the charity stripe.
“You know what’s interesting?” he said, “the guys are playing so hard that it almost didn’t matter, and I think that’s important. When they play that aggressively and they fight that hard, it doesn’t matter sometimes. It obviously came into account when they shoot in the 40s; we shoot 17 on our home court. I thought we were just as aggressive as they were.”
The Institute never trailed in the first half, starting with a trey by Taylor Breck then stretching the lead to 15 — 41-26 — on another 3-pointer by Nehemiah Mabson. But as the clock wound down in the first half, the Chaparrals slowly began closing the gap, and by the time Daeshon Francis hit a no-time-left 3 to end the stanza, the Bronco lead was down to 46-39.
The two sides traded baskets early in the second half, but the Bronco lead continued to dwindle, with Midland tying it at 51-51 with 15:20 on the clock, then, after NMMI battled back to a seven-point lead, going up 62-61 at 12:14.
There was a bit more back-and-forth, but with the Chaps going to the line regularly, they slowly pulled away, stretching their lead to as much as eight and keeping the margin between four and seven. But as the clock ticked down, the Broncos continued to fight even as Midland kept hitting free throws.
NMMI went into the bonus for the first time in the game with one minute remaining, and Emmanuel Kema hit both ends of a 1-and-1 to close the gap to 85-80. DeMarco Enoch made it 85-82 with a crowd-pleasing field goal, but Enoch then missed a trey and Breck missed the putback after the rebound and the Broncos were again forced to foul, making the lead 88-82.
Two more made free throws by NMMI and a rare miss by the Chaps and the Midland lead had closed to 88-84.
Then, with 10 seconds left in the game, Chancellor Ellis nailed a trey and was fouled, making it a one-point game and causing pandemonium in Cahoon Armory. But Midland again hit two from the line and Kema tried to tie it on a last second shot but missed, giving the win to Midland.
Still, the Broncos never quit, and that, David said, was a huge positive.
“We had a chance down the stretch,” he said. “We had a chance and there were still come opportunities for us to make some layups and free throws, to get ourselves in a good position. I’m just glad these guys fought. It’s a very difficult position to be in where they’re not playing for anything. Just for pride and opportunity and they came out and competed, so I was pretty proud of my sophomores in particular.”
He praised two-year Broncos Chaz Lassiter and Enoch for their efforts in a tough season, but credited everyone with battling to the end.
“Even the rest of the guys, to make it to this point, it’s always a success,” the coach said.
Taylor Breck led NMMI in scoring with 26 points, while Ellis picked up 19 — five 3s and a perfect 4-for-4 from the line — with Mabson adding 17. Chap Travan Coad led all scorers with 34 points, while Francis had 28 points and 10 rebounds and Nobertas Giga 11 points and 14 rebounds.
And while the season didn’t go the way he had hoped, Davis is still thinking positive.
“We’re looking forward to next year, improving in the offseason and being back in the playoffs.”