Boucher, T-Birds rally past NMMI

Boucher, T-Birds rally past NMMI title=
Chris Boucher goes up for a layup in Saturday's win. Photo Courtesy of News-Sun

12/8/2013 7:28:51 PM

New Mexico Junior College freshman post Chris Boucher's big second half propelled the ninth-rankedThunderbirds to a come-from-behind 79-67 conference win over New Mexico Military Institute on Saturday at Caster Activity Center. If there was a play to be made down the stretch, the 6-foot-10 Canadian was involved as he scored 12 points and had five blocks and eight rebounds all in the second half, helping NMJC (12-1, 2-0 WJCAC) rally from a 41-39 halftime deficit.

"Chris Boucher has a chance to be a really, really special player," NMJC coach James Miller said. "I believe this time next year, most of the schools in the country will be recruiting him. When he
plays hard, when he plays tough, he's really special. He did a lot for us in the second half."

NMMI (9-4, 0-2) had extended its lead to 52-46 on an Antonio Manns 3-pointer with 15:35 remaining in the
game before the T-Birds regained some of the rhythm that helped them open the contest with a 15-4 lead.
Nevin Johnson hit a 3-pointer with 15:02 left and Boucher later made a jumper with 13:22 left to cut the Broncos' lead to 52-51. NMMI was trying to add to its lead when Boucher, who finished with 18 points and
10 rebounds total, was able to tip a rebound away from a group of players and into the hands of Nicky Desilien, who took off for an easy layup to give NMJC a 53-52 lead with 12:48 remaining.

The T-Birds led the rest of the game as Boucher had a pair of blocks on the Broncos' next possession and scored from the paint with 11:08 left to make it 55-52 NMJC tacked on eight more points after Boucher's goal to complete a 19-0 run that gave the T-Birds a 63-52 advantage with 9:15 remaining in the
game.NMMI made a late push for the lead as a pair of turnovers led to back-to-back Biron Joseph goals and two free throws by Marcus Roper completed the brief 6-0 run, cutting NMJC's lead to 70-67 with 1:55
left.However the T-Birds shot 7-for-10 from the free-throw line in the final 1:42 of the game and closed the contest on a 9-0 run to win 79-67.

"New Mexico Military is a good team," Miller said. "They have a lot of guys who can make shots and they are scrappy. They're much improved. I have a lot of respect for what they do. We were a little sluggish off the bat, but we played really hard in the last 10 or 12 minutes of the game and did what we needed to do to win the game."

Though NMJC opened the game with a 15-4 lead in the first five minutes, several trips to the free throw line kept the Broncos in it. NMMI shot 15-for-19 (78.9 percent) from the line in the first half and ultimately took a 35-33 lead on a runner by Tariq Carey with 2:04 left in the first half. A jumper by Kenrich Williams tied the game with 1:49 left before Manns answered with a putback 20 seconds later and the Broncos held on to take a 41-39 lead into the break.NMJC sophomore guard Jeff Newberry was fouled while going up for a goal in the final seconds and had a NMMI player fall on an already injured ankle. Newberry was in pain, but made the two free throws to close out the half. He returned in the second half and scored 10 more points to finish with a game-high 21.

"Jeff has been battling an ankle injury for about the last month," Miller said. "We just need to get him to the break so he can get some time off and enjoy that month before we play another game. He was gutsy
down the stretch and made some big plays for us."

Joseph led NMMI with 17 points while Manns had 16 and Carey had 13. The T-Birds shot 47.2 percent
(25-for-53) from the field and 61.1 percent (22-for-36) from the free-throw line. The Broncos shot 33.9 percent (20-for-59) from the field, including an 8-for-32 mark in the second half, and 70 percent (21-for-
30) from the free-throw line.

NMJC finishes the 2013 portion of the season Friday and Saturday at the Grizzly Holiday Classic in West Plains, Mo. The T-Birds take on Three Rivers Community College on Friday and tournament host Missouri
State-West Plains on Saturday.

Brad Cox


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