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By The Hutchinson News
HUTCHINSON, Kan. – Cameron Forte made seven of his first eight shots as Howard College got off to a 12-0 lead in the first five minutes and held off East Mississippi CC 63-54 on Monday in a first-round game of the national junior college men’s basketball tournament.
The 13th-seeded Hawks (29-5) advance to play hometown Hutchinson Community College, the tournament’s No. 4 seed, at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
After its great start, Howard sat on a 10-point cushion for most of the game.
“I feel like we, (in the) first half, came out pretty good,” said Forte, who had 16 points at the half and finished with 18 points, six rebounds, five assists, three steals but also seven turnovers.
“Second half, I don’t know what happened, but we didn’t play as good, as together, offensively and defensively. They killed us on boards,” Forte said.
East Mississippi stayed close despite hitting only 3 of 31 three-point attempts. That was possible because of a 42-35 rebounding edge overall and 21-10 edge in offensive boards that turned into 19 second-chance points.
“You take (away) the first five minutes out of the game, we won the game,” Lions coach Mark White said. “We outscored them by three. And that’s all without making a shot. All because we competed, played so hard, and guarded. They had a whopping 63 points.”
East Mississippi limited open looks for Howard to climb back in the contest. While the Hawks scored just 15 points in the first 15 minutes of the second half, the Lions crept back in.
“We tightened up defensively,” said EMCC guard Mack Foster, who scored 13 of his 15 points in the first half to keep the Lions afloat. “We weren’t guarding.”
Jacolby Mobley, an All-Region 23 honoree, scored seven of his 13 points in a span of just more than three minutes late in the second half to pull East Mississippi within five, at 54-49, with 4:19 to play.
But Howard never let them get any closer, hitting five of its final six free throws to seal the game.
“We were, kind of like, forcing everything so we had to slow down and get into our groove,” said Howard forward Ladon Carter, a 6-foot-7 specimen who muscled his way to 12 points.
East Mississippi’s shooting woes – riddled with tough-luck lip-outs – came back to bite them. They were just 20 of 64 from the field and couldn’t buy a three-pointer. Howard hit 51.1 percent (23 of 45) of its field goals.
Howard got a 10-point, 10-rebound double-double from Serbian seven-footer Goran Huskic.
Foster led EMCC with 15 points. Jarekious Bradley, the team’s leading scorer on the season and another All-Region 23 selection, was held to nine points – 12 below his season average – and missed all six of his three-point tries.