HUTCHINSON, Kansas — Meeting at the NJCAA Div. I Men's Basketball National Tournament for the third time in three years, the South Plains College men's basketball team won the rubber match with No. 10 Eastern Florida State, clipping the Titans 82-74 Thursday at the Hutchinson Sports Arena to punch their ticket to the Final Four for the third consecutive season.
South Plains improves to 28-5 on the year and will face the winner of Odessa and Vincennes on Friday night at 7 p.m.
Sophomore Chris Orlina led the Texans on the offensive end as the 6-7 forward from Newport News, Virginia led all scorers with 23 points and eight rebounds, chipping in 6 of 10 attempts from the field and was 9 of 13 from the free throw line in 35 minutes of action.
South Plains point guard Deon Barrett netted double figures for the second consecutive game as the 5-10 sophomore from Dallas dropped in 19 points and dished out a team-high seven assists. Barrett finished 6 of 13 from the floor and was 5 of 10 from the 3-point line over 33 minutes. Sophomore big man Gaige Prim was his usual self as the 6-9 forward from Aurora, Colorado recorded 16 points and 10 rebounds, sinking 4 of 6 shots from the floor and knocked down 8 of 10 attempts from the free throw line.
South Plains stunned the Titans early, jumping out to a 23-7 lead on a Jonah Antonio' jumper with 11:38 to play in the front half. Eastern Florida State would cut the deficit to eight, 23-15 thanks to a Jonathan Ned' 3-ball with just under nine minutes before the break.
Orlina pushed the Texans back up 28-15 with a jump shot from 11 feet with 7:39 in the first half. Orlina would find the bottom of the net yet again and sent the Texans into the break with a 45-29 advantage, dropping in a triple with eight ticks to play in the opening period as South Plains shot 57.1 percent in the first 20 minutes and was 8 of 17 from the perimeter.
Trading buckets to begin the final stint Eastern Florida State's Jalen Warren brought the Titans within nine, 53-44 with a layup with 13:57 to play. Warren would bring his team within four with a jump shot with 11:35 left, which was immediately answered by Prim who connected from seven feet to put the Texans up 59-53.
Ned cut the Texans' lead to three, 75-72 with a pair of free throws with under three minutes left but was countered by South Plains' Trey Wade who dropped in a jump shot to put the Texans up 77-72 with 2:12 to go. The Texans would hold the Titans scoreless over the next two minutes with Orlina putting the final stamp on the game with a pair of free throws with 12 ticks to play, sending South Plains back the Final Four.
The Texans shot a 49.1 percent clip from the floor and were 20 of 27 from the charity stripe. South Plains won the battle on the glass, outrebounding the Titans 37-26 and scored 16 points on second-chance opportunities.
Warren netted 21 points and seven assists while Junior Madut and Ayo Dada each finished with 11 points. Eastern Florida State finished 46.7 percent from the field and was held to a 6 of 21 mark from the 3-point line.