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College basketball: Herkimer rallies late to beat Minnesota West in national tourney

LOCH SHELDRAKE, N.Y. -- The Minnesota West Bluejays men's basketball team led Herkimer County Community College 73-65 with 1:57 remaining in Friday's National NJCAA Division III game in New York.

LOCH SHELDRAKE, N.Y. -- The Minnesota West Bluejays men’s basketball team led Herkimer County Community College 73-65 with 1:57 remaining in Friday’s National NJCAA Division III game in New York.

But in just 56 seconds the Generals rallied to tie. They finally won, with a buzzer-beater by Solomon Silas, and with their demoralizing 78-76 loss the Bluejays find themselves playing for seventh place today at Loch Sheldrake, N.Y.

The Jays, who lost to the top-ranked team in the nation, Brookdale, 94-72, in their tournament opener on Thursday, play their final game today against Massasoit at 11 a.m. Central time.

Here’s a look at West’s Thursday and Friday games:

Brookdale 94, Bluejays 72 Minnesota West hung tough with Brookdale. But the Jays couldn’t hold it.

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The top-seeded Jersey Blues, improved to 32-0 with the win.

West’s Alex Brown led all scorers with 32 points to go with seven rebounds, three assists and three steals. DeShawn Pickford added 17 points and nine rebounds, while Ki’Shawn Syph had seven points. Kuol Chol had six rebounds and five assists.

Brookdale was led by Zachary Olukanni, who scored 25 points off the bench. Grante Goode had 17 points, while Jaimik Moore scored 14. Matthew Ringel scored 12 points to go with 18 rebounds.

The Jersey Blues controlled the glass as they collected 49 rebounds compared to West’s 29, including a 16-6 advantage on the offensive side. Brookdale shot 50.7 percent from the field (34 for 67), while MW shot 39.7 percent (25 for 63). The teams combined for 60 free throws, with Brookdale shooting 21 for 35 and the Bluejays making 15 of 25 shots.

MW (19-12) jumped out to an early advantage over the Jersey Blues as four points from Pickford and a triple from Preston gave MW a 7-0 lead.

West had an 18-16 lead after a jumper by Brown, but Brookdale answered with a 13-0 run to take a 29-18 advantage.

Tyrone Walker hit a layup to stop the run, but West couldn’t make up any ground and trailed 42-29 at halftime.

However, out of the break, Minnesota West made a surge.

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Led by five points from Syph and a 3 from Brown, West went on an 8-2 spurt to start the second half and was within seven points, 44-37.

Brookdale scored two quick baskets as Ringel put back two offensive rebounds, and after a 3 from Chol, Olukanni made a 3, Fres Carbrea put back an offensive rebound and Olukanni slammed home two more as the lead was back to 15 points.

As the fouls mounted during the next seven minutes, so did the free throws. During that span, the two teams combined for 29 foul shots. West was within 12, 68-56 at the eight-minute mark, but the next 11 points went to Brookdale as it began to put the game away.

Brown scored 10 points in the final 4:36, but Brookdale held on to advance to Friday’s semifinals.

Minnesota West 29 72Brookdale 42 94 Herkimer 78, Bluejays 76 It was a strange game. Minnesota West jumped out to a 26-16 lead but ran into foul trouble as four players had two fouls before the half. The fourth-seeded Generals, who trailed the eighth-seeded Bluejays by just one at halftime, took a lead early in the second half and stretched it to 60-50 with eight minutes to go.

Two minutes later the Jays cut the margin to 60-59 and later, with a run of 3-pointers, managed to lead by 8 with under a minute to go. With 4:37 remaining, Brown sunk a long 3-pointer to tie the score at 62-62. At 4:03 Brown hit another 3 and it was 64-62 West. At 3:15 yet one more Brown 3-point connection put West ahead 67-64 and -- amazingly -- he hit another one at 2:35 to make the score 70-65. With 1:57 to go, teammate Kuol Chol’s 3-point shot made the score 73-65.

At that point, it looked as if the Jays, plagued with foul trouble for most of the game, would hold on to win. But Herkimer went quickly on the offensive, made good use of an impatient Minnesota West team that also disgorged key turnovers, and rapidly evened the score with 1:01 remaining.

Impatient with their ball-handling and missing shots they had been making moments earlier, the Bluejays could not re-take control. With 24.3 seconds left, a 13-foot jumper and free throw by Brown gave West a 76-74 lead. Herkimer tied it at 76-all. West called a time-out with 12.6 seconds to play but could not get a shot off against the Generals’ choking defensive pressure. After a short break, Herkimer tossed the ball back into play with 1.9 seconds to go when Silas, from the baseline, sunk the game-winner.

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Brown finished with 28 points to lead Minnesota West. Alex Preston tallied 10 points. Chol and Pickford both had nine.

Pickford also had six assists. Chol led the team with seven rebounds.

Silas finished with 21 points for Herkimer, which moved to 26-6 on the season with the victory.

Minnesota West 38 76Herkimer 37 78  

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