Mavericks rally to win back and forth contest at Cowley
In a matchup of two teams that played in last year's national tournament, Wednesday night's matchup between the host Cowley College Tigers and Northern Oklahoma College-Tonkawa Mavericks lived up to its billing as the game featured five ties and 19 lead changes before the Mavericks held on to defeat Cowley 77-72 in front of a raucous W.S. Scott Auditorium crowd.
With fans for both teams imploring their teams on, the game had a playoff type feel. However, the Mavericks were able to make just enough plays down the stretch to win thanks to 21 second half points from sophomore Jalen Johnson.
"Credit to coach Brad Witherspoon and his team, they forced us to play their game," Cowley head coach Donnie Jackson said. "We shot a lot of jumpers and did not do a good job of getting the ball inside. (Jalen) Johnson got going from the beginning because we allowed him to get open looks."
Cowley got a combined 22 points from Mekhi Cameron and Raishaun Brown to lead 31-29 at the end of the first half. The Tigers' lead would grow to 42-36 following a basket by Chris Spenkuch with just under 16 minutes remaining.
NOC-Tonkawa (2-0) would rally to grab a 46-45 lead on a four-point play by Johnson and increased its lead to 65-60 following a basket by 6'11 freshman Fede Federiko with 4:45 left to play.
However, the Tigers answered back with a 7-0 run and led 67-65 after a three-pointer by Brown with 2:37 remaining.
Once again, Johnson came up big for the Mavericks as his fifth three-pointer of the game put NOC-Tonkawa in front 70-68 with 1:19 left to play. After the Tigers failed to score on their next offensive possession, the Mavericks' Kodee Holloway drained a three-pointer to make it a two possession game.
After making only 11-of-23 free-throws, NOC would make 4-of-6 free-throw attempts over the final 35 seconds as they held on for the five-point win.
Having spent the previous eight seasons as the head coach at NOC-Tonkawa, Jackson knows all about this rivalry as he went 11-5 against Cowley during his time with the Mavericks.
"It was a normal NOC vs. Cowley game," Jackson said. "The crowd was exceptional. It is just not as fun when you are on the losing end."
Mekhi Cameron scored 17 second half points and shared game-high honors with Johnson with 29 points. Cameron went 6-of-8 from three point range and led the Tigers in scoring for the second straight game.
"Mekhi showed the type of big game player he can end up being," Jackson said. "I wish we could have kept feeding the ball to him when he had the shots going."
Cowley made 25-of-29 free-throw attempts and went 11-of-23 from three-point range, but were out-shot 50.9 percent to 42.9 percent from the floor.
The Tigers (1-1) will play a pair of games at the Red Devil Classic in Iola on Friday and Saturday. Cowley will play Allen Community College Friday at 7 p.m. before taking on Labette Saturday at 2 p.m.
"With the quick turn around we have got to be ready to play or it could be a tough weekend," Jackson said. "I have got faith that we will bounce back. My job is to figure out a way to get our guys on the right path."
NOC-Tonkawa (77): Elijah Pickens 5-6 5-9 16, Jalen Johnson 10-16 4-7 29, DJ Jones 3-8 0-0 6, Syrus Grisby 2-5 2-7 6, Fede Federiko 4-4 1-2 9, Nick Cham 0-2 0-0 0, Cam Malray 1-4 1-2 3, David Owusu 0-1 0-0 0, Kodee Holloway 2-5 2-2 8, Naadhir Wood 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 27-53 15-29 77.
Cowley (72): Raishaun Brown 3-11 5-7 12, Clarence King 5-9 6-6 19, Emmanuel Austin 1-3 0-0 2, Kennedy Willis 1-1 3-4 6, Faustin Phanor 0-1 0-0 0, Mekhi Cameron 6-12 11-12 29, Xavier Washington 0-2 0-0 0, Xavier Valley 0-0 0-0 0, Tre Alexander 0-0 0-0 0, Chris Spenkuch 2-3 0-0 4. Totals: 18-42 25-29 72.
Three-pointers: NOC-Tonkawa 8-21 (Johnson 5-10, Holloway 2-3, Pickens 1-1, Malray 0-2, Wood 0-1, Jones 0-1, Grisby 0-1, Montgomery 0-1, Cham 0-1), Cowley 11-23 (Cameron 6-8, King 3-6, Brown 1-5, Willis 1-1, Austin 0-2, Washington 0-1). Rebounds: NOC-Tonkawa 25 (Federiko 6), Cowley 26 (Washington 5). Assists: NOC-Tonkawa 10 (Pickens 4), Cowley 6 (Brown, Willis 2). Turnovers: NOC-Tonkawa 10, Cowley 12. Total fouls: NOC-Tonkawa 21, Cowley 23. Fouled out: none. Tehnicals: Johnson.