WOLFFORTH -- Even in a season that not everything's gone smoothly for the South Plains College men, Jordan Brangers always makes the Texans dangerous.
The 6-foot-2 sophomore tied his school record with 10 3-point goals Friday, several from far outside the arc, and South Plains knocked off No. 20 McLennan Community College 85-76 in the semifinals of the NJCAA Region V Tournament at Frenship. Brangers scored 32 points on 10-for-15 3-point shooting and two free throws with 48.7 seconds left, giving South Plains enough cushion for Texans coach Steve Green to pull him moments later for individual applause.
"You can't really describe the feeling," Brangers said. "Once you see the ball go in one time, it feels like when you touch it, the ball's going to go in the net every time. I really want to honor coach Green, him giving me the freedom to be able to come down and, if I'm in a zone, to be able make plays and hit shots."
Brangers' radar-range shooting wowed the crowd, but in the first two games of the regional, the Texans have gotten something else they need: major production from Isaiah Maurice. The 6-10 sophomore had a 20-point, seven-rebound game Thursday against Ranger College and 26 points and nine rebounds against McLennan.
South Plains point guard Keith McGee played 40 minutes in a fast-paced game with 10 points, six assists and one turnover.
"We’re playing our best basketball right now, and that's exactly what we need," Maurice said.
Even Green couldn't dispute that. McLennan (27-5), champion of the Northern Texas Junior College Athletic Conference, made 13 3s of its own and came up short.
"It was as close to any game this year we approached playing 40 minutes," Green said. "For a junior-college basketball team, I think we focused about as well as anybody can for 40 minutes."
Brangers made seven 3s in the first 13 minutes of the second half, gaining confidence as he went and firing from far outside the arc, into the 30-foot range.
"I guess you could say it's being in a zone," he said. "You could really credit Isaiah. Him scoring inside so many points, it opened me up a lot more."
The performance stood out, even for Brangers, who hit a school-record 151 3s last season when he was an NJCAA first-team all-American.
"It was impressive; it really was," Green said. "But the most important thing it did, other than it was 3 when he shot it and it went in, was Isaiah found himself down there one-on-one, because they had to extend out so far on (Brangers). You could drive a truck the through the middle."
The Texans finished 16-for-25 from 3-point range, but it was nearly essential with McLennan shooting 13 of 29 from long range. Highlanders guard Xaiver Armstead and swingman Jashawn Talton finished with 26 and 18 points, respectively, and had the hot hand early, helping McLennan build a 14-4 lead.
South Plains will play in the regional title game at 2 p.m. Saturday against No. 7 Odessa College (28-3). The winner earns an automatic berth to the 24-team NJCAA Tournament. Odessa beat South Plains twice this season on the way to winning the Western Junior College Athletic Conference by three games.
South Plains, unranked and not receiving votes in the NJCAA Top 25, appears to be on the bubble for at-large consideration to the NJCAA Tournament. Green, however, said he thinks the victory Friday should get the Texans in, based on their strength of schedule. Three of South Plains' eight losses are to teams who were ranked No. 1 (Indian Hills) and No. 3 (Odessa) at the time. Region I champion Arizona Western, now 23-9, beat South Plains 90-88 in November, and the Texans beat then-and-now No. 9 Southern Idaho in late December.
SOUTH PLAINS COLLEGE 85
MCLENNAN COMMUNITY COLLEGE 76
MCLENNAN -- Shaw 1-4 0-0 3, Hedgeman 2-8 1-2 5, Pinho Severo 3-7 1-2 7, Armstead 9-20 1-2 26, Talton 7-15 0-0 18, Skipper-Brown 3-7 2-2 8, Cooper 2-6 0-0 5, McClellan 0-0 0-0 0, Gregg 1-2 2-2 4. Totals 28-69 7-10 76.
SOUTH PLAINS -- Perez 2-5 0-0 6, Orlina 3-9 1-2 7, Maurice 11-14 3-7 26, Brangers 10-17 2-2 32, McGee 3-5 1-2 10, Corprew 2-4 0-2 4. Totals 31-54 7-15 85.
Halftime score: South Plains 34, McLennan 32. 3-point range: McLennan 13-29 (Armstead 7-12, Talton 4-8, Shaw 1-3, Cooper 1-3, Pinho Severo 0-1, Hedgeman 0-2), South Plains 16-25 (Brangers 10-15, McGee 3-4, Perez 2-3, Maurice 1-1, Orlina 0-2). Total fouls: McLennan 16, South Plains 13. Fouled out: none. Rebounds: McLennan 35 (Armstead 6, Shaw 6, Skipper-Brown 6), South Plains 24 (Maurice 9). Assists: McLennan 15 (Hedgeman 4), South Plains 26 (McGee 6). Steals: McLennan 0, South Plains 1 (Corprew). Turnovers: McLennan 8 (Armstead 4), South Plains 9 (Maurice 2, Orlina 2). Blocked shots: McLennan 1 (Talton), South Plains 4 (Maurice 3). Records: McLennan 27-5, South Plains 22-8.