HUTCHINSON, Kan. Well into the second half of Wednesday's NJCAA tournament quarterfinal, Salt Lake Community College's bench loudly encouraged the five hustling Bruins on the court to take a charge, to keep their hands up and to get a stop.
If you couldn't see the Sports Arena scoreboard which wouldn't have been a bad thing for Southeastern Illinois College fans you'd never have guessed at the time SLCC was up 30-plus points by the players' intensity.
But that's just how the defensive-crazed Bruins are. It's also why their championship dreams are still alive.
Sparked by yet another energetic effort on defense and a sweet shooting night by Brian Green SLCC became the first team to earn a spot in the NJCAA tournament Final Four with an impressive 74-45 win.
"Intensity-wise as a team I think it's as perfect as you can get. I think pretty well everybody brought it," said SLCC coach Norm Parrish. "When we play defense that usually energizes us."
The energized Bruins will next face Three Rivers Community College (29-6) on Friday at 5 p.m., with a spot in Saturday's championship game up for grabs.
Parrish can only hope SLCC duplicates this eye-opening performance in the semis.
Like they have many times this season, while limiting foes to under 57 points an outing, the fourth-ranked Bruins (31-3) flustered the Falcons (28-7) all night, holding them to an unthinkable 25.5-percent shooting (13-for-51) and keeping them 38 points under their scoring average.
SLCC charged into the locker room with a 41-20 lead after only allowing SE Illinois one field goal in the final 9:47 of the first half. The Bruins didn't relent after the break, either. They held the Falcons to just one more bucket for almost the first seven minutes of the second half and used a 36-5 spurt to blow this one open.
"The kids came out great. I thought we set the tone pretty early defensively," Parrish said. "This team's a little weird when we play really good 'D' usually our offense follows."
The physical and pesky Bruins' top-ranked defense carved a huge path for the offense. Green led the way, firing in 23 points in less than 23 minutes of action, including a 5-for-7 effort behind the 3-point line.
But almost all of the Bruins joined in the fun. Eleven SLCC players scored, and the team shot a blistering 57.4 percent (27-for-47). Center Papa Samba Guisse had another solid outing, scoring 10 points with a team-best six rebounds off the bench. Vassy Banny added eight points, while Aaron Smith and DaVell Jackson each chipped in seven.
Monie Hudson kept Southeastern Illinois in the game for part of the first half, when he scored most of his 18 points, but he and his teammates just had no answer for the Bruins after taking an early 5-2 lead.
"The (SLCC) defense was pretty good, but we just didn't run our system," Hudson said. "We just didn't play together as a team. We were just jacking stuff up."
The Falcons missed 17-of-24 shots in the first half and were even worse in the second as the Bruins kept pressuring them with their feisty man defense.
"I think to Southeastern's credit, once they got down 15 or 20 I think their heads dropped a little and I think they missed some shots they normally hit," Parrish said. "I'd like to think it was all us, but it probably wasn't."
"It's just one of those nights where it kind of snowballed on us. We struggled, and we kind of panicked a little bit," said SE Illinois coach Todd Franklin, whose team beat a highly regarded Paris (Texas) Junior College in the opening round.
"They had a great game, played tremendous," he added. "Obviously Salt Lake I thought did a great job all the credit to them. They really move the ball, hit screens, hit the open shots, (and) played a great, tough physical defensive effort against us."GAME NOTES: Three Rivers CC, from Poplar Bluff, Mo., edged Eastern Arizona College 75-73 in Wednesday's nightcap. ... The other semifinal opponents will be determined today. ... Chris Medina, Yahosh Bonner and Dan Stafford also had solid games off the bench for SLCC, especially defensively. ... SLCC's largest lead was 38 points at 72-34.
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