(NMMI’s Andrew Cotton gets ready to put up a shot in the paint. Cotton led the Broncos with 23 points in a 75-65 loss to Western Texas College in a play-in game to determine the final WJCAC team to advance to the Region V tournament. Photo by Geoff Gunn)
Peter Dindinger – NMMI Sports Press
HOBBS A lot can be said about the character exhibited by the New Mexico Military Institute Bronco basketball team this season.
Fighting through the injuries, NMMI managed to put itself in a situation to play in the Region V tourney.
Tied for fourth place in the Western Junior College Athletic Conference alongside the Western Texas College Westerners, the Broncos competed in a play-in game at the Caster Activity Center on the campus of New Mexico Junior College on Monday night.
Western Texas College ended the first half on a 13-0 run to lead 40-25.
The Westerners did not look back as they went on to win the game 75-65 to take on Ranger College on Wednesday in the opening round of the regional tourney.
NMMI (15-14) was led by Andrew Cotton with 23 points and five rebounds while John Mapiou chipped in with 11 points.
The Broncos have prided themselves by their relentless defense, unfortunately the Westerners made too many easy shots.
“Just to get on the court every day … we go through more than any team in the country,” Cotton said. “Just to come out here and give it our all and play like a brotherhood and just do what we can makes me proud.
“We left it all out there. We just had spurts where we played our defense. We just didn’t lock in and play a full 40-minute defense. We’re banged up, but we love each other so we knew we were gonna give it our all.”
The Broncos trailed by eight points with 11:09 in the opening half until it got four points from Furaha Cadeaux de Dieu which came in the form of two free throws and a shot in the paint with 4:03 on the clock.
Western Texas (22-10) then surged ahead to increase its lead to 15 points at the break.
NMMI finally got a bucket with 19:01 in the second half as Cotton landed a two-pointer.
The Westerners finished their opportunities on offense while the Broncos struggled to control the ball committing 16 turnovers.
Down the stretch with 4:39 left in the contest, Mapiou hit a three-pointer to cut the deficit to nine. Cotton later came away with another two-pointer to get the Broncos to within seven points.
The last-minute effort wasn’t enough for NMMI.
Western Texas had four players tally double-digit scoring figures.
CJ Smith finished with 22 points, Jaylen O’Connor added with 18 and Tafari Simms chipped in with 13. Darius Mickens tallied 11 points.
NMMI outrebounded the Westerners, 38-29. Jermane Carter and Osborn Shema each grabbed a team-high nine boards for the Broncos.
The Broncos shot 37 percent from the field while Western Texas cashed in at 50 percent.
Twenty of Western’s points were scored off turnovers.
“Everybody on this team … they just fought against every single team,” said Mapiou. “We had about four to five games that were played with injuries. Almost the whole starting lineup was out.
“Every time the game comes on, it’s the boot off and you just play your heart out. The guys knew every night you had to play your hardest. We tried to fight as far as we could. It says a lot. It just shows how hard we work.”