Northern Wins a Heart Stopper Against Univ. Of The Southwest: Then Fall To San Antonio

by Staff Reporter / Nov 03, 2017 / comments
Northern’s Bryce Simmons drives to the basket. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Northern Wins a Heart Stopper Against Univ. Of The Southwest: Then Fall To San Antonio

By George Morse Sports and Outdoors

The Northern New Mexico College Eagles “picked and popped” their way to an exciting come-from-behind 96-95 victory over the University of the Southwest Oct. 28 in Española.

Trailing by 11 points 87-76 with four minutes left in the game, the Eagles took advantage of poor free-throw shooting and two big turnovers by the Mustangs to stage their comeback.

Northern’s Victor Aria scores against the Mustangs. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

“I’m proud of the perseverance,” Northern Coach Ryan Cordova said. “To fight back from that. We tried not to get it all in one possession. Just trust the offense. We ran a few plays, got shots and knocked them down.”

Northern’s Eric Coca drove in for a layup to make the score 87-78. The Mustang’s Jeffery Long sank one of two free throws. A basket inside by Elijah Neumann made the score 88-80 in favor of Southwest. After two missed free throws by the Mustangs, Coca buried a three-pointer to cut the Mustangs lead to five points.

The Mustangs’ Xavier Hodge answered with a three-pointer that made the score 91-83 as time wound down. After a free throw by Walid Aly made the score 91-84, a charging call on Southwest gave the ball back to Northern.

Northern’s Walid Aly scores on a layup against Southwest. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Coca and Nicholas Burgard ran an offense that Coach Cordova called a “Pick and Pop.”

Rather than the traditional “Pick and Roll”, where a player sets a pick for a teammate and then roll to the basket, the “Pick and Pop” has the player set a pick, then pop out beyond the three-point arc for a three-pointer. It worked like it was drawn up with Burgard burying a three-pointer to make the score 91-87.

The Mustangs’ Marcelious Green made one of two free throws. Northern’s Bryce Simmons scored on a driving layup. Southwest’s Ron Louis answered with a three-pointer that made the score 95-89 in favor of the Mustangs.

Northern ran the “Pick and Pop” again and this time it was Coca who knocked down a three-pointer to make the score 95-92. Northern’s next time down the floor, it was more “Pick and Pop” with Burgard doing the popping of another three-pointer, tying the game with 41 seconds left to play.

Southwest had the ball, but Dave Blaylock lost the handle trying to drive to the basket and the Eagles came up with the ball. A driving shot didn’t fall for Northern and Louis came up with the rebound. However, he was called for an offensive foul as he flailed around in the paint Northern retained possession. On the inbounds play, Coca ended up with the ball. A quick whistle as he dribbled in the backcourt sent him to the foul line to shoot two shots with five seconds left.

Southwest Coach Charles Goar called two timeouts to try to ice Coca. Coca sank his first free throw for a 96-95 lead, but missed the second. A long three-pointer by Jeffrey Long was way off the mark and Northern had pulled off an unlikely victory over a disgusted team of Mustangs.

Northern’s Erini Ugbisien gets double-teamed in the paint. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Simmons led the Eagles with 18 points and Coca finished with 17 points. Burgard and Erini Ugbisien each had 10 points. Green had 24 points for Southwest. Blaylock finished with 22 points and Louis had 21 points. Southwest had led 43-41 at halftime.

Northern’s Dominique Josephs get fouled hard by University of the Southwest’s Jim Coleman. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Eagles Fall To San Antonio

After their thrilling 96-95 victory over University of the Southwest Oct. 28 in Española, the Eagles had their wings clipped by Our Lady of the Lake from San Antonio, Tex. The Saints beat Northern 91-89 Oct. 31 and defeated the Eagles 104-86 Nov. 1. Both games were played in Española.

In the first game, Northern shot a sizzling 31-of-52  (9.6 percent) from the floor and outscored the Saints from the free-throw line, sinking 23-of-31 to just 9-of-16 for the Saints. Our Lady of the Lake led at halftime 44-40. The Eagles dominated the boards, outrebounding the Saints 54-24, including a 47-17 edge on the defensive boards. 

What did in Northern was 36 turnovers by the Eagles. Our Lady of the Lake had 22 steals and scored 33 points off of turnovers.

In the second game, the Saints built a 47-32 lead at halftime and Northern never recovered. Our Lady of the Lake shot a sizzling 15-of-27 from beyond the three-point arc. The Saints had 15 steals and Northern had 25 turnovers that led to 34 points by Our Lady of the Lake.

The two losses dropped the Eagles to 2-3 on the season. Northern hosts Fort Lewis College from Durango Friday (11/3) in Española.