Today’s the day.
Kilgore College’s men’s basketball team begins the 2021 NJCAA Men’s National Tournament today at Hutchinson Sports Arena in Kansas against – well, whom else? – the home-team Hutchinson Community College.
Coach Brian Hoberecht, in year number 13 of guiding KC basketball, leads his No. 17-seeded Rangers (18-5) against the16 seed, the Blue Dragons (18-6), today at 10 a.m. in a first-round game. See it streaming live on njcaa.org/network and recap story here on kilgorenewsherald.com following the game.
The KC-Hutch winner has another tall task: Mineral Area (Missouri), the only undefeated team in the tournament (23-0) and its top seed. Mineral Area awaits the KC-Hutch winner for a 2 p.m. tip-off on Tuesday.
It’s a 24-team tournament with the championship game Saturday, all tournament games to be played at the Hutchinson Sports Arena, as they have been for years.
The Rangers have won nine straight games headed into the tournament, including topping Trinity Valley in the Region XIV Conference championship game. It’s likely KC needed that win to get into nationals, as the 18-to-19 win mark actually wasn’t good enough for some to make that 24-team cut.
In fact, one of the tournament’s controversies this year is that host-team Hutchinson got in, when some who had perhaps a better resume did not.
KC is making its second national tournament appearance since 2013. That year, the Rangers beat Shelton State (Tuscaloosa, Ala.), and then lost to Spartanburg (S.C.) Methodist. KC finished 2013 with a 27-6 record.
There won’t be nearly that many games this year even if the Rangers win them all: like all the other programs in the tournament, the season was cut mildly short due to COVID-19. KC normally plays a basketball season from November into April, and this year, the November and December non-conference schedule was cut. The Rangers played only in their conference, as did many of the NJCAA teams in this week’s event.
The Rangers’ roster for the 2021 season: Dantwan Grimes (1), a 6-foot-2 freshman guard from Ocala, Fla.; Tysen Banks (2), a 6-foot sophomore guard from Memphis; K.J. Jenkins (4), a 6-2, 165-pound guard from Atlanta, Ga.; Malik Grant (5), a 6-7 freshman guard from Toronto; Brendon Hoberecht (10), a 5-10 sophomore guard from Carl Junction, Mo.; Javonne Lowery (11), a 6-5 freshman guard from Pearland; Da’Sean Nelson (12), a 6-8 freshman forward from Toledo, Ohio; Duane Posey (14), a 6-7 guard/forward from Memphis; Jasiah Wright (21), a 5-10 freshman guard from Longview; Stephan Morris (22), a 6-8 sophomore forward from Houston; Dylan Cabs (23), a 6-8 freshman guard/forward from Bell Flower, Calif.; Godwin Illymoka (24), a 6-3 freshman guard from Toronto; Paul Otieno, a 6-8 freshman forward from Nairobi, Kenya; Justin Crawford (42), a 6-2 freshman guard from Mansfield; and Michael Okoye (44), a 6-8 sophomore forward from Anambra, Nigeria.
Hoberecht is assisted by Jake White, Cody McCoy and Mike Randle.
As for Hutchinson’s path to the game against KC, the Blue Dragons had their own postseason tournament (the Plains District Tournament in Kansas) and won two games, beating Independence and Coffeyville (76-75) before losing to Cowley College in the championship game.
Hutchinson has won 13 of its last 16 games, including one by forfeit.
They’re averaging 84 points, 45 rebounds and 17 assists per game, and as a team, they have a 71 percent free throw shooting percentage, and 47 percent from the floor.
Interestingly, they’re 13-1 at home, which is where they face KC today.
They’re led in scoring by Matt Mayers, a sophomore forward, who nets 18 points per game. Izaiah Hale, a freshman, averages 16 points a game, and then Majok Kuarth, a sophomore, hits for 13 a game.
Mayers averages 9.9 rebounds a game, which means he pretty much averages a double-double (double figures in points and in rebounds). Kuarth averages six rebounds a game.
Come back here to kilgorenewsherald.com following the game for a wrap-up.