JUCO basketball: Warriors drop McCook to open new season

Nov. 8—MCCOOK, Ne. — The Indian Hills men's basketball team exploded on the offensive front to earn a 109-100 victory in its season opener at McCook Community College on Tuesday night. With the victory, head coach Josh Sash picked up his first win at the helm of the IHCC men's basketball program.

"I'm really happy for our guys to get the season started off with a win," Sash said. "Winning is hard regardless, especially winning on the road."

The 14th-ranked Warriors used a sizable run in the second half to pull away from the Indians after intermission. Indian Hills has now won 40 consecutive games when scoring at least 100 points in a contest, a streak that dates back to Mar. 3, 2015. The Warriors move to 6-0 all-time against McCook and are now 10-0 all-time in the state of Nebraska.

In his first season as the head coach of the Warrior program, Sash earns his first victory at Indian Hills and his 30th career National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) win after leading Des Moines Area Community College to a 29-4 record during the 2019-20 season.

Six different individuals went for double-digits in the scoring column Tuesday night as the Warriors scored their most points in a contest since dropping 115 against Dawson Community College on Mar. 5, 2021.

Freshman Kheni Briggs went for a game-high 27 points after connecting on four three-point shots while going 11-12 from the free throw line. Briggs finished the night 6-13 from the floor. Sophomore David Hermes added 16 points on 7-10 shooting while Amarion Nimmers tallied 12 and Braden Sparks chipped in 10.

Sophomore Trevion LaBeaux recorded his first career double-double after scoring 15 points while grabbing 10 rebounds. Six of LaBeaux's boards came on the offensive glass, a new career-high for the forward.

As a team, the Warriors shot 49.3-percent from the floor. Indian Hills made the most of its opportunities at the charity stripe, connecting on 29-35 from the free throw line. Defensively, the Warriors forced 18 McCook turnovers compared to just nine on the Warriors' front.

Briggs opened up the season with the team's first points of the year, connecting on a three-point shot from the sidelines to spark the Warriors early. Indian Hils took its largest lead of the half, 21-14 with under 14 to play as Briggs continued to find his rhythm from deep, totaling 14 points in the opening half. The Indians pulled back within striking distance of the Warriors and eventually traded leads throughout the final five minutes of the opening frame. Chris Mpaka's putback dunk beat the buzzer to give the Warriors a 54-50 halftime edge.

Indian Hills erupted in the early goings of the second half as a mid-range jumper from Sparks gave the Warriors their largest lead of the night 67-54. McCook battled back midway through the second half, pulling within four only to see Indian Hills pull back ahead by double-digits. Hermes' putback with under eight to play pushed the lead back to 13 as Indian Hills ran away for its first win of the year.

"In the second half, we played better defensively in stretches but not consistent enough," Sash said. "Credit to our guys for making enough shots and getting us to the free throw line to come away with the win."

The Warriors are back in action Friday night for the Iowa-Missouri Challenge, hosted at the Hellyer Center in Ottumwa. Indian Hills will take on Missouri State University-West Plains as part of a two-day, eight-game classic on Friday night at approximately 7 p.m.