Mens Basketball Knocked Out in NWAC Tourney Opener

Ed Strong

A furious late rally came up short as SCC was eliminated 86-82 by South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC) in the opening round of the Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC) men’s basketball tournament.

The tournament was originally scheduled to be played last weekend at Everett Community College, but was postponed a week and moved to Clackamas Community College (Oregon City, Oregon) due to concerns and attendance restrictions due to the novel coronavirus.

However, this ended up being one of just two games played before the entire tournament was cancelled a few hours later.

Trailing 84-75 with one minute left, SCC’s Jassem Cumlat made a layup to cut the margin to seven points. SPSCC’s Ben Janssan missed the front end of a one-and-one, allowing SCC to get within four when NWAC scoring leader Anjaylo Lloyd hit a three-pointer with 38 seconds to go.

But after a pair of SPSCC free throws stretched the lead to six, SCC missed their next two shots badly before Lloyd put back an offensive rebound with just 6 seconds left to make it 86-82.

Once again, SCC got a gift as Janssan, who had a strong offensive day overall, missed two more free throws. Lloyd shot an off-balance three-pointer that actually ended up going in with a second left, but was called for traveling before he could get the shot off, negating the basket. SPSCC was then able to inbound the ball safely to secure the four-point win.

SPSCC’s Branden Bunn was by far the best player on the floor, scoring a career-high 35 points while taking just 18 field goal attempts, an incredibly efficient day. 25 of his 35 came in the first half to help the Clippers take a 53-43 lead into the break. Bunn had never scored more than 26 points in an NWAC game until the final week of the regular season, but has now set a new career-high in each of his past three games, scoring 30, 34 and now 35 to lead SPSCC.

Sophomore guard Keilyn Myers scored a career-high 23 points in his final game for SCC, making 9 of 13 shots as the lone bright spot offensively on an otherwise cold-shooting game for the Dolphins. Lloyd scored 17 but was held mostly in check, falling well short of his league-leading average of 26.4. Mussie Teclemariam had 15 points and a season-high 14 rebounds.

SCC had no answer for the 1-2 punch of Bunn and Janssan in the first half. Bunn had 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting, while Janssan had a very efficient 15 points on just eight field goal attempts due to hitting three three-pointers and some free throws.

Tied at 18 eight minutes into the game, SPSCC went on a 11-0 spurt in just two minutes to put some distance between themselves and the Dolphins. Janssan had eight points in the run, including two of the Clippers’ three three-pointers.

SCC was trailing just 18-14 early when star sophomore guard Lloyd picked up his second foul of the game just six minutes in. He was substituted out and although SCC tied it two minutes later, SPSCC would go on an 18-7 run in his absence to build a 15-point lead.

SPSCC led by as many as 19 with 5:05 to go in the first half, but a 13-3 run by SCC cut the lead to single-digits, fueled by Myers, who had seven points in the run.

After SCC cut the lead to seven just before half, Bunn hit a three-pointer to end the half and SPSCC scored the first nine points of the second half to match their largest lead at 19. SCC was unable to get within single digits until back-to-back three-pointers by Teclemariam and Cumlat cut the lead to nine with 2:08 to go.

SCC’s season ends with a record of 14-13 (9-5 North) after finishing third in the NWAC North Division. West #2 seed SPSCC improves to 23-6 (12-2 West).

After SCC’s elimination, one more game was played before the tournament was cancelled entirely. A press release from the NWAC stated that “we have made many efforts to continue the tournament but in the interest of public health the tournament has been cancelled.”