NMMI Sports Press
The Bronco basketball team got their second win in a row Saturday with a close 78-74 victory over a tough military team from Fort Bliss.
The Knights (9-3) fell Friday to Howard College while missing three players, and Saturday saw two of those active military athletes back on the court.
“They obviously brought a few more starters in,” said NMMI coach Ralph Davis. “They played tough. They played physical. We were a little out of rhythm but I was glad we got the victory, because we’ve been losing close games.”
The first half was a bit nerve-wracking for the Bronco fans, as the only leads NMMI (3-8) had were 4-3 very early, and 42-40 very late. There were seven ties, including one that drew a huge cheer from the fans at the 11:09 mark, when Logan Santiago, who led the Broncos with 22 points, stole the ball from Fort Bliss and took it in for 2 points to make it 18-18.
The biggest difference in the first half was at the free-throw line. The Knights were 13-for-17, while NMMI was a mere 4-for-10, missing two free throws in the final seconds to leave it tied at 42-all at the buzzer.
But the Broncos re-took the lead just 19 seconds into the second half, and although Fort Bliss battled — closing a 13-point Bronco lead down to two — the home team never trailed.
After Knight Jacquet Wells fouled out early in the second with NMMI up 50-46, the Broncos slowly began pulling away, stretching the lead to 67-54 on back-to-back 3-pointers by Davis Steelman.
Fort Bliss cut the lead to two on an 11-2 run with 2:54 remaining, with nine of those points coming from leading scorer Cliff Tucker, a former DI player for the University of Maryland. But while the NMMI defense held the Knights to one trey and a free throw the rest of the way, Santiago hit another two from close in and Rashaan Proctor and Maurice Coleman combined to go 4-for-5 from the charity stripe to hang on to the victory.
The Broncos improved their shooting all the way across in the second half, but there were still too many missed free throws overall along with missed putbacks and 21 turnovers.
“Those are things that kind of hit us with a bug early on,” Davis said. “Free throws, obviously, in the early part of the season. And silly mistake turnovers down the stretch there, too. We’ve got to do a much better job at that. But we’ve got two days to really try to sharpen up some things and really go from there.”
Steelman came on big in the second half, getting nine of his 14 points on three 3s. Coleman added 13 points for NMMI, while Tucker picked up 29 points for Fort Bliss and Anthony Dixon added 21.
Proctor picked up 11 total boards for NMMI.
Davis said it was a good game to play heading into the conference opener Wednesday vs. Frank Phillips.
“It certainly was,” he said. “Tucker’s talented. Knows how to play. He gave us a good test. Little sparring, if you will. We got a good game out of Logan Santiago. Jerrell Doorbal was a factor for us. But we’ve just got to come out on Wednesday and give it our all, and that’s what it comes down to. We’re 0-0 right now in what matters. We’ve just got to try to get the first one, that’s all we’ve got to do right now. Go 1-0.”
That game is set to begin at 6:30 p.m. CST in Borger, Texas.