T-Birds open conference play with win

T-Birds open conference play with win title=
Kenrich Williams

12/8/2013 7:13:45 PM

The ninth-ranked New Mexico Junior College men's basketball team opened the game with an 8-2 lead and never trailed in a WJCAC opening 73-57 win over Frank Phillips College on Wednesday at Caster Activity Center. The T-Birds (11-1, 1-0) used an 11-0 run early in the game, capped by a steal and a dunk by Nick Billingsley with 13 minutes remaining in the first half, to stretch their lead to 19-5. However the Plainsmen never completely went away as NMJC never led by more than 19 the entire game.

"Opening conference with a win - even if you play good or bad doesn't matter - we'll take a win," NMJC coach James Miller said. "That was a game we needed to win to try to stay at the top of the league. That's
the first game and that's our goal." December is usually a quiet month for NMJC, but the Western Junior College Athletic Conference decided to have all teams play two conference games in the month before the holiday break this year. Miller said it's tough having a key conference game in December when players are ready to go home for the holidays after a busy November, but the T-Birds were ready to open conference
play Wednesday.

"It's a little different because our guys are getting to the point where it's time to go home," Miller said. "They've been here since August and they're ready to go home. I can't blame them. They're ready to see their families. You're gearing up now when we go home seven days or eight days from now. It's a little
bit different, but our guys are ready and they're excited."

After NMJC took a 35-26 lead into halftime, it seemed as if Frank Phillips (9-4, 0-1) was going to make a run at the lead as the Plainsmen got two quick goals to make it 35-30 with 19:12 remaining in the game.
Back-to-back dunks by Kenrich Williams and Chris Boucher sparked a brief 6-0 run to stretch the T-Birds' lead to 41-30 with 17:35 remaining and Frank Phillips never got within five points again. NMJC took its biggest lead with 8:21 left in the game as a pair of free throws by Jeff Newberry capped a 7-0 run and
made it 65-46. The Plainsmen rallied with a 9-0 run as a pair of free throws by Emmanuel Johnson, a
Rasheed Swanston layup, a Darrel Robinson 3-pointer, and a hook shot by Chris Tawiah made it 65-55 with 6:36 remaining. However Frank Phillips couldn't get the game within single digits the rest of the way as the T-Birds held on to win.

Williams led NMJC with 14 points and eight rebounds while Boucher had 13 points and eight rebounds, Newberry had 10 points and Montarius Hall had four blocks. The T-Birds shot 39.7 percent (27-for-68) from the field, 21.4 percent (3-for-14) from 3-point range, and 66.7 percent (16-for-24) from the free-throw line.
Swanston paced Frank Phillips with 16 points while Rokas Paulauskas had 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Plainsmen. Frank Phillips shot 32.7 percent (18-for-55) from the field, 30 percent (6-for-20) from
beyond the arc, and 75 percent (15-for-20) from the free-throw line. NMJC outrebounded Frank
Phillips 57-36.

The T-Birds continue conference play against New Mexico Military Institute at 2 p.m. Saturday at Caster Activity Center.

Brad Cox

Hobb's News- Sun

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