Just before the game tipped off SFCC Athletic Director Darrin Pannier stopped by the scorer’s table and encouraged the crew working the table to be at their best, saying that this very well could be “one of the biggest games in campus history!”
The clock and score crew got the message and, apparently, so did coach Kevin Thomas’ SFCC Roadrunners. Although their spot in the National Tournament was already secure, the SFCC men were clearly not satisfied. They came out focused and intense in the NJCAA district contest vs. the Highland Community College Cougars out of Freeport, Ill.
It was the third meeting of the year for the two teams, with each winning one of the previous contests. This contest would be closer than the 74-54 SFCC victory would indicate.
Coach Thomas’ Roadrunners came out in a tough man to man defense holding the Cougars to only 9 point over the first 10 and a half minutes of the game. At the 9:24 mark of the first half SFCC freshman Dondre Alexander hit a floater from about 10’ and prompted Highland coach Nathan Courtney to call a timeout with the Roadrunners leading 21-9.
The timeout helped as the Cougars made a mini run and closed the score to 21-14. At the 7:10 mark of the first half Roadrunner freshman Ben Denbow knocked down a three from the corner and pushed the lead back to 24-14.
Over the final seven minutes of the half the SFCC squad cooled off a bit and Highland sophomore Demarco Henry asserted himself with three hard earned baskets in the paint. The score at the half had SFCC on top by five at 30-25.
Freshman Kedar Edwards led the Roadrunners with 10 points and 4 rebounds at the break. Region 16 Player of the Year Kevin Punter had 6 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists in the first half of action.
The Roadrunners looked a little bit out of sync as the 2nd half opened and Highland closed the score to 30-29 with two quick buckets. The SFCC defense asserted itself once more though and the offense was about to get untracked.
With 16:35 remaining in the game Alexander hit another floater in the lane and sophomore Joe Thomason backed that up by taking the ball right down the middle of the lane to score a layup.
With 13:10 remaining Punter went to work. He hit a big three from the corner to push the score to 39-30. Less than a minute later Punter connected from the opposite corner to push the score to 42-30 and for the next 6 minutes the Roadrunners held Highland at bay maintaining a 12 to 13 point advantage.
With 5 minutes remaining in the contest the Cougars made their final run. Highland guard James Boone scored a couple of layups off of turnovers and the score closed to 51-46. The teams traded 3 pointers to make the score 54-49 but that was as close as Highland was going to get.
The Roadrunners Punter scored in the press attack and Kedar Edwards hit a three off of the fast break in the next possession.
With just under 2 minutes to go Edwards hit another three off a beautiful assist from Joe Thomasson. The score ballooned to 62-49 and the game was all but decided.
The Roadrunners thrilled the big crowd at the Fred E. Davis Center with back to back to back alley oop dunks to close out the game and establish the final score at 74-54.
Edwards finished the night for the Roadrunners with 23 points and 6 boards. Punter had 19 points, while adding 9 rebounds and 7 assists. Thomasson chipped in with 14 points and 8 boards. Demarco Henry led the Cougars with 22 points and 10 rebounds.
The SFCC men will be in Hutchinson Kan., for the Men’s National Championship Tournament the week of March 17 – 22. The Lady Roadrunners will compete in the Women’s National Championship in Salina Kan., also being held on March 17 – 22. Photos by Dan Hickman, Sedalia Weekly Observer.