By Eric Peterson
Gary Williams Jr. delivered with the game on the line Thursday night at Ed Werre Arena.
The Indian Hills (Iowa) Community College sophomore elevated and drained a pull-up 3-pointer with 5 seconds remaining to lift the No. 13-ranked Warriors to a 90-87 victory against North Dakota State College of Science for the NJCAA Division I, District XI men’s basketball championship.
“It’s tough when all season you have being looking forward to get to this point and it ends like that,” said NDSCS freshman Brian Goodwin, who scored 15 points. “They made some tough shots. It’s a credit to them.”
Indian Hills CC (29-4) advanced to the NJCAA national tournament, which starts March 16 in Hutchinson, Kan. The Wildcats (26-7) had their season end.
“It was a great season for us,” said Goodwin, who is from Brooten, Minn. “We played really hard. It didn’t go our way, but I like how our team fought.”
The Wildcats tied the game 87-87 after freshman Milos Vranes sank two free throws with 29 seconds remaining. That set the stage for Williams.
On the ensuing possession, the Warriors called a timeout with 17 seconds remaining. The ball ended up with Williams near midcourt. The 6-foot-5 guard started to drive toward the hoop before pulling up for a 3-pointer. The shot swished through the hoop with 5 seconds remaining for a 90-87 lead.
“He works on it every day,” Indian Hills CC head coach John Wardenburg said. “There is not a harder working guy on our team. He deserves that to get us to Hutch.”
The Wildcats had a chance to force overtime. NDSCS sophomore Johnny Woodard had a clean look at a 3-pointer from the right wing, but the shot rimmed out as time expired.
“We got a nice look,” NDSCS head coach Stu Engen said.
Goodwin helped keep the Wildcats close down the stretch. The 6-foot-4 guard hit a pair of 15-footers in the final two minutes to cut the Indian Hills CC lead to two points on two occasions. Goodwin scored eight of his points in the final nine minutes of the game. The 6-foot-7 Vranes paced the Wildcats with 16 points.
The Wildcats built an 11-point halftime lead, despite shooting 42 percent (20 of 48) from the field in the opening 20 minutes. Freshman guard Julian Walters scored all of his 14 points before halftime. Walters gave NDSCS a 52-41 lead, scoring a transition layup with 24 seconds to play in the first half.
“We played together,” Engen said of the strong first half. “We talked a lot about facilitating for others.”
Indian Hills CC stormed back, starting the second half on a 20-3 run.
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