HUTCHINSON, KS — Six players scored in double figures in the Texans' Sweet 16 matchup with No. 21 South Georgia State College as No. 5 South Plains clipped the Hawks 91-80 to advance to the Elite Eight of the NJCAA Men's Basketball National Tournament Wednesday at the Hutchinson Sports Arena.
South Plains moves on to the quarterfinal round which will feature a Region V matchup with South Plains and No. 13 Ranger College at 6 p.m. The contest will stream live at spctexans.com via the NJCAA Network.
"I think more than anything that was on my mind, was it seemed like it's been more than a month since we won a game," South Plains head coach Steve Green said. "As a coach, you start to think you have forgotten how to win. We got past that and made enough plays to win today."
Leading by nine at the midway point, South Plains would open its lead to double figures early in the second half when freshman guard Dalph Panopio knocked down a trey to give SPC a 55-44 advantage with 16:12 left. Rivaldo Soares would follow up with a triple of his own, part of a 20-point performance from the sophomore guard as South Plains took a 58-44 lead with 15:31 to play.
The Hawks would swing back and trim the deficit to nine on a pair of free throws from Jalen King to bring the score to 69-61 in favor of the Texans with 9:05 remaining. South Plains would answer with an 8-3 run as sophomore big man Jevonnie Scott shook the rim with a dunk at the 7:02 mark to put SPC up 77-64.
"I thought Jevonnie stood out today," Green said. "He seemed to have a little more energy, and he was sharp and blew past people. He shot good shots and finished 8-for-9 and didn't settle. He drove the ball to the rim and slipped a lot of screens and made easy plays."
South Georgia State had one more run left in the tank, getting back within six with a 12-4 run to bring the score to 81-76 with 3:09 to go. That would be as close as the Hawks would get as South Plains ripped off a 10-2 run over the final three minutes to advance to Thursday night.
Scott finished with 18 points and five rebounds coming off the bench for South Plains, while Myron Gardner netted 12 points, six assists and snagged four boards over 26 minutes. Panopio dropped in 13 points, six assists, and five rebounds, while Benjamin Bayela had 12 points and seven boards for South Plains.
"It was very important to get Myron back, and he had some spurts where he played well," Green said. "He's been out for two and a half weeks so his conditioning isn't where it needs to be, but he provided strength and stability which this team sorely missed when he was out."
The Texans shot a 52.3 percent clip from the field and knocked down 11 3s while the Hawks shot 43.1 percent from the floor and were just 6 of 23 from distance. SPC controlled the glass, outrebounding their counterpart 43-28 and scored 44 points inside the paint.
South Plains will shift its focus to a Ranger team that has won 10 straight games, including a decisive 87-75 win over No. 4 John A. Logan on Wednesday.
"We haven't seen Ranger this year, and they have two or three guys back from a team we played two years ago," Green said. "They are a really good shooting team and beat a really good team today, and we have to handle the ball and execute what we need to."
(Photo credit: NJCAA)