By Kevin Schnepf
Johnny Woodard was on his computer the other night watching the Dawson Community College men’s basketball team knock off nationally ranked Williston State on a last-second shot. That’s when Woodard called his coach.
“He didn’t believe me at first,” Woodard said.
Believe it. Instead of playing a National Junior College Athletic Association Region 13 championship in Williston Sunday, Woodard and the North Dakota State College of Science Wildcats played on their home floor in the Blikre Activities Center – where they claimed a 92-63 win over Dawson.
Avoiding any kind of letdown against Dawson, Science now gets another home game. This time, the Wildcats will host national power Indian Hills Community College of Ottumwa, Iowa, on Thursday for the right to advance to the NJCAA Division I national tournament in Hutchinson, Kan.
“We want to get to that stage in Kansas,” said Woodard, a 6-foot-4 sophomore from Duluth, Minn., who was named the Region 13 player of the year. “Indian Hills is definitely a talented team. We just have to knock down our shots.”
The Wildcats were certainly accomplishing that on Sunday.
In the first half, the Wildcats made 10 of 15 3-pointers to build a 55-37 halftime lead. Jamal Davis, the only other sophomore for the Wildcats, made all five of his 3-pointers despite playing with a dislocated shoulder in his non-shooting arm.
“I was running on adrenalin,” said Davis, a 6-4 sophomore from Hopkins, Minn. “I was able to knock that out of my mind and hit some shots.”
Science, which made 18 3-pointers in one game this season, ended up making 13 of 26 treys for the game. The performance was an improvement from its 67-49 and 76-63 regular-season wins over Dawson – which ends its season with a 14-17 record.
“We were preparing for Williston,” Woodard said of the team the Wildcats lost to 93-83 at Williston. At home, the Wildcats needed five overtimes to beat Williston 127-122.
Woodard, who is getting recruiting looks from the likes of Missouri, Wisconsin-Green Bay, Minnesota and St. John’s, ended up leading the Wildcats with 25 points. Davis had 17 points and seven assists.
Now, the Wildcats prepare for Thursday’s national-qualifying game with Indian Hills – a rematch of last year’s qualifying game in Ottumwa, where the Wildcats lost 115-91. Indian Hills, national junior college champions in 1997, 1998 and 1999, boast a 27-4 record and a No. 13 national ranking – relying on full-court pressure and seven double-figure scorers who have the team averaging 101.4 points per game.
“We know they are going to be tough,” said Woodard, who scored 34 points in last year’s game against Indian Hills.
A win would send Science to its first national tournament since 2009. The Wildcats have reached nationals eight other times in 1953, 1954, 1966, 1983, 1990, 1991, 1993 and 2005.
“They (Indian Hills) are awfully gifted,” said Science head coach Stu Engen, named the Region 13 coach of the year. “They probably have eight high-major players on their roster. But, if we shoot like we did today, maybe we can make it interesting. Hey, if Dawson can beat Williston, who knows?”
You have a few options from this point. The first and most recommended option would be to download one of the browsers below. If that is not possible, the second suggestion would be to update your current browser, you can follow the update link below for that. Otherwise, the site will still function in its current state, but in a limited capacity.