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Salt Lake CC comes back, wins NJCAA championship

Published: Sunday, March 22 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

The Salt Lake Community College Bruins hold up the NJCAA championship trophy after defeating Midland College 67-60 in the championship basketball game Saturday, March 21, 2009, in Hutchinson, Kan.

Travis Morisse, Associated Press

HUTCHINSON, Kan. — Ever since coming up short in the National Junior College Athletic Association championship game a year ago, Salt Lake Community College dreamed of being able to make a return trip and finish what it started.

Dreams became reality on Saturday night as the Bruins used an incredible second-half comeback to beat sixth-ranked Midland College 67-60 and claim the school's first-ever men's basketball championship.

Nate Bendall scored 21 points and pulled down eight rebounds to lead SLCC (31-6). Logan Magnusson added 14 points and D.J. Wright chipped in 12 points and nine rebounds for the 13th-ranked Bruins, who overcame a large second-half deficit to claim victory for a second straight game.

Midland looked to be in complete control after using a 19-2 run to seize a 32-19 lead with 2:12 left in the first half. Greg Hill, who finished with a game-high 25 points to lead the Chaparrals, scored the go-ahead basket during that run and fueled it by scoring eight straight points.

Things grew even bleaker for SLCC in the second half when Hill drilled three 3-pointers in four possessions to push Midland's lead to 43-27. The Chaparrals still led by a double-digit margin nearing the halfway point of the second half when Larry Wilkins made a basket to give Midland a 51-36 advantage over SLCC.

As it turned out, the Bruins had the Chaparrals right where they wanted them. Wright drained three free throws to ignite an incredible 22-1 run that gift-wrapped all of the momentum and delivered it to SLCC.

Ricky Shoff drilled a 3-pointer to give the Bruins a 54-52 lead — the first for the team since midway through the first half. Drew Robinson capped off the run with a basket that made it 58-52 with 4:11 remaining.

David Terrell scored a basket to make it 58-54 and temporarily halt the run, but that would be the closest that the Chaparrals could get. SLCC pushed its lead back to six points on another basket from Shoff and Bendall and Mangusson each added free throws to boost the Bruins' lead to 63-54 with 43 seconds left in the game.

SLCC is just the third junior college team from Utah to claim a national championship in men's basketball and the first in-state school to do it since Dixie State beat Coffeyville (Kan.) 82-81 to win their second NJCAA title in 2002.

— John Coon

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