It didn’t take long for the fans in Hutchinson to witness perhaps the game of the tournament as the Seward County Community College men’s basketball team upset No. 2 nationally-ranked Chipola College, 90-84 in overtime, in the feature game on opening night at the NJCAA National Tournament at the Hutchinson Sports Arena. In front of a nearly packed 7,600 capacity arena, Reggie Chamberlain scored a season-high 30 points, and set a new Seward County single-game record with 18-of-19 from the free throw line, and sophomore Darko Cohadarevic added 25 points (4-of-6 three-pointers) to help the Saints knock off Chipola, who finished last season as the NJCAA Tournament runner-up. Seward County has now won the third most games in school history (30-5 overall) while the Indians fall for just the second time this season (32-2) and will now compete in consolation bracket play for the remainder of the tournament.

That Saints used a season-best 40-of-47 from the free throw line to help them advance to the Tournament quarterfinals on Thursday, March 20, to take on Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College (27-7) at 6:30 p.m. NEO defeated Shelton State College in the opening round, 78-65.

Chipola started in control of the contest with a lead throughout the opening half. The Saints were forced into calling a timeout after the Indians raced out to a 21-11 lead at the 11:52 mark. Chipola used an 8-0 run with two 3-pointers and a field goal to take the early 10 point lead.

Seward County jumped back into the game with two 3-pointers from Cohadarevic and a long range 3 from Donald Dixon to bring the Saints within four points, 23-27, with 5:56 until halftime. Cohadarevic made his fourth straight free throw at the 3:31 mark to make the score 27-31, before Chipola went on a 6-0 run to take its second 10-point lead of the first half.

Seward County finished the first half on its own 6-0 run, with Ervin Williams knocking down four consecutive free throws, and Bryson Hampton making 2-of-2 from the line. Seward County shot 15-of-16 from the free throw line in the opening half while shooting 42 percent from the field. Chipola showed its balance with 22 of its 37 points coming from players off the bench.

Cohadarevic led SCCC at halftime with 10 points. SCCC also connected on 4-of-9 from long range in the opening period while trailing the Indians, 33-37. Casey Mitchell paced the Indians in the first period with a team-high 10 points.

The Saints had the hot hand coming out of halftime with Chamberlain and Cohadarevic each hitting 3-pointers to give the Saints their first lead of the game, 40-39, at the 17:11 mark.

The contest featured 10 ties and a total of 19 lead changes, all coming after halftime. Seward and Chipola traded the lead four times apiece midway through the second half, before Cohadarevic and Burns connected on back-to-back buckets in the paint to give Seward the 57-54 lead with 9:03 left to play, which led to a Chipola timeout.

Later in the half, Cohadarevic made 1-of-2 free throws to tie the score for the fourth time in the second half, 58-58, with 4:08 left to play. Foul trouble then became an issue for both teams as freshman Gary Flowers fouled out for the Indians, and Williams exited the game for the Saints during a 23 second span where the Saints grabbed a 60-59 lead with 3:11 remaining.

Chamberlain remained solid down the stretch from the free throw line knocking down a perfect 10-of-10 from the stripe during the final three minutes of regulation. Sophomore Nick Burns chipped in 1-of-2 free throws to give the Saints a narrow 71-68 lead with 18.1 seconds remaining, before Chipola tied the score and sent the game into overtime with a deep 3-pointer from sophomore Clevin Hannah with 9.9 seconds on the clock to tie the score, 71-71.

The Indians started overtime by scoring the first bucket just four seconds after the tip-off. SCCC answered with Cohadarevic scoring a sky hook in the lane to even the score, 73-73, with 4:40 left in the game.

From that point on it was all Saints. Seward County finished overtime on a 17-11 run, which was sparked by a perfect 6-of-6 shooting effort from the floor, and continued success (6-of-8) from the free throw line.

Cohadarevic and Chamberlain combined for a 10-0 run, giving the Saints an 81-73 lead with 2:17 to play. Freshman Bruno Mendes scored three of his six points in the extra period, and sophomore Nick Burns hit a jumper and added a lay-up in the final 1:07 of play for the Saints. Burns joined Cohadarevic and Chamberlain in double figures scoring 15 points with a game-high three steals.

Hampton gave the Saints quality minutes down the stretch, playing in the final three minutes of regulation – following Williams fouling out – and all five minutes of overtime. Hampton finished with 10 rebounds and five points, marking his fourth double-figure rebounding game of the season.

Chamberlain, the Jayhawk West Conference Freshman of the Year, finished with a SCCC single-game school record 18 free throws, breaking the previous record that was set in 1971-1972 by Greg White (17). Chamberlain also led all players with four assists while playing in 44 minutes and 35 seconds. Cohadarevic shot 7-of-15 from the field, 4-of-6 from 3-point territory and was 7-of-8 from the free throw line. Cohadarevic, who has verbally committed to Texas Tech University for next season, notched his 11th career 20-plus point scoring game.

Chipola sophomore Mario Little, who is the team’s leading scorer (15.1 ppg.), finished with 15 points and three rebounds. Little is headed to the University of Kansas next season to play for the Jayhawks in the Big 12 Conference. Sophomore guard Vernon Teel led the Indians with 19 points and seven rebounds in 27 minutes of action.


NOTES:
Seward County improves to 5-4 all-time in NJCAA Tournament competition… It was the Saints third straight appearance in the NJCAA Tournament where they have won their opening game… Zollinger has now led the Saints to victories in 17 of their last 18 games overall, including a current 10-game winning streak… The Saints defeated their second straight Top 10 nationally-ranked opponent (defeated No. 9 Cowley Colllege, 71-61, in Region VI Championship Game)… Chipola head coach Greg Heiar suffered just his 13th loss in four seasons as head coach at Chipola (127-13 overall)… Seward County needs just one victory to mark the program’s 650th all-time win… Zollinger has led the Saints to a 9-2 record this season in games decided by 9 points or less… Seward improves to 13-0 this season when shooting at least 40 percent from the field (47 percent vs. Chipola College)… Seward entered the NJCAA Tournament ranked 9th in the nation in team free throw shooting percentage… Chamberlain broke the Saints’ all- time record for free throws made in a single-game, which was previously held by Greg White (1971-1972) for the past 36 years… Darko Cohadarevic moved into sixth-place all-time in Seward County history for career rebounds (418)… Seward County held Chipola to 24 percent shooting from 3-point range, marking the first time the Saints have held their opponent to less than 25 percent shooting from long range since Nov. 17 (vs. Clarendon), a span of 28 consecutive games… Donald Dixon tallied his first block of the season in the first half verses Chipola… The Saints are now 2-1 in overtime games this season, with their last overtime contest coming against Barton County C.C. (double O.T.) on Feb. 13, which is the only loss for SCCC since Jan. 12… Cohadarevic has now scored 25 points in back-to-back games against No. 9 Cowley College in the Region VI Tournament championship, and against No. 2 Chipola College in the NJCAA Tournament First Round… Chipola started the regular season, and spent a total of nine straight weeks ranked No. 1 in the NJCAA Top 20 poll… Chipola is making its program’s 13th appearance at the NJCAA Tournament this season.

NJCAA TOURNAMENT – FIRST ROUND RESULTS
No. 4 Salt Lake C.C. defeated Vincennes Univ.(65-61)
Southeastern Illinois College defeated Paris J.C.(63-57)
No. 19 Three Rivers C.C. defeated Eastern Wyoming College (83-70)
Eastern Arizona College defeated No. 14 Walters State C.C.(69-53)
Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College defeated Shelton State C.C. (78-65)
SEWARD COUNTY C.C. defeated No. 2 Chipola College (90-84 – OT)

Game Schedule – Wednesday, March 19, 2008
11:00 a.m. South Plains College vs. Georgia Perimeter College (First Round)
1:00 p.m. Indian Hills C.C. vs. No. 5 Itawamba C.C. (First Round)
3:00 p.m. Vincennes Univ. vs. Paris J.C. (Losers Bracket - Consolation)
6:00 p.m. No. 4 Salt Lake C.C. vs. Southeastern Illinois College (Winners Bracket – Quarterfinals)
8:00 p.m. No. 19 Three Rivers C.C. vs. Eastern Arizona College (Winners Bracket – Quarterfinals)