CHEYENNE – The Eastern Wyoming College men’s basketball team came up short after experiencing a 25-point swing late in Friday night’s Region IX semifinal against top-seeded Northeastern Junior College.
The Lancers went from leading by 15 to trailing by 10 in the second half, but in the end, NJC got the best of the Lancers 97-94 after an overtime period was needed to settle a winner.
“Our kids wanted to win that one. You’ve seen where our program has come from. We are here. We were one or two possessions away from winning the thing,” EWC coach Tim Moser said. “I’m really proud of these guys. They are a great group of guys, and I wouldn’t trade them for anybody.”
Following a 3-pointer by freshman Ivkovic Nikola, Eastern Wyoming led 58-43 with 12:57 left in the game before the Plainsmen went on a run.
With 7:01 left in the game, Northeastern tied the game at 66, but the tournament’s top-seeded team’s run didn’t stop there.
With 1:30 remaining, NJC held an 84-74 lead, but that’s when EWC freshman Terrance Jones took over the ball game.
Jones put an end to the Plainsmen run with a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer with under a minute to go.
Utilizing a full-court press, Jones added two more points on a steal and layup to cut the deficit to 84-81 with 55 seconds left.
“We probably could have come into that a little earlier, but I was afraid of fouling. Our kids did a great job of not fouling and got (NJC) on their heels. We had a chance to win it with that,” Moser said. “Terrance and all of our kids made big plays.”
Over the next 38 seconds teams traded baskets, and Jones added four points, cutting the NJC lead to 86-85 with 17 remaining.
EWC quickly fouled, sending NJC to the free-throw line, and the Plainsmen went 1-of-2 from the charity stripe.
In the final 11 seconds, the Lancers had two opportunities to tie the game, missing the first, but freshman Kayden Toldson connected on the put back at the buzzer to force the extra period.
In the extra period, Eastern Wyoming won the tip, but it was NJC who struck first with a triple 45 seconds into overtime.
Freshman Enzo Clouve Urie’s layup midway through the extra period gave the Lancers their only lead of overtime.
NJC regained the lead on its next possession and never trailed again.
However, Eastern Wyoming had one last attempt to keep their hopes alive.
With 4.2 left on the clock, the Plainsmen went 0-for-2 at the charity stripe, leading 97-94.
The Lancers pushed the ball up the court and getting the ball to trusted shooter and freshman Chris Tsamas launched a game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer which fell off the side of rim as time expired.
“Chris had a good look. He’s the guy I wanted shooting it,” Moser said. “It’s how it goes sometimes. Neither team quit. I’m proud of our guys.”
Jones led EWC with 21 points and six rebounds, while freshman Nikolas Gustavson added 14 points. Toldson had 13, and freshman Herman Melashych and Ivokovic had nine each.
Leading up to the semifinal matchup with NJC, Eastern Wyoming knocked off Lamar Community College the afternoon before with a 74-63 win in the quarterfinal round of the tournament.
EWC led throughout the entire first half, but Lamar battled back to tie the game just before halftime.
The teams swapped the lead 11 times in the first 14 minutes of the second half before a triple by Tsamas gave the Lancers the lead for good with 6:23 left in the contest.
Freshman Sofyane Nocara led the Lancers with 20 points, while Tsamas added 14. Toldson had 13.
The Lancer season came to an end with a 15-9 record.
“We have a good nucleus, and if they come back, we’ll be right back here again,” Moser said. “That’s the goal.”