It was unfathomable, it was almost unbelievable. They call it March Madness for a reason. The TCCAA/NJCAA Region VII Championship would be a matchup of the #7 Cleveland State Cougars and the #8 Roane State Raiders. It had been 30 years since the Cougars had been to Hutch, but the Raiders had never made the trip. In the end, it was Cleveland who would prevail as they used a 19-4 run midway through the second half to win the title 70-58.
Cleveland now advances to The Tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas (NJCAA Division I) starting march 18. The Cougars will find out thier seed on Monday, March 11, during a Live Selection show which airs on NJCAA TV, Facebook Live, and Twitter.
As both teams started their fourth game in five days, it would be conditioning and legs that would prevail in this contest. The gym was electric as both schools had strong fan bases pulling for their squad and reacting to every play.
Roane started the game quickly shooting out to a 5-0 lead, but the Cougars came back and the game stayed even for most of the first eight minutes. The Raiders built a seven point advantage at 18-11 prompting a Cougar timeout. Cleveland would come back and take a brief lead at the four minute mark before Roane would close with an 8-3 run to go ahead 37-34 at halftime.
Cleveland hit only 35.5% of their shots in the first half while Roane had connected on 47.1% of their shots. James Joprdan had led the Raiders with 13 points in the first twenty minutes while Cleveland's Jonathan King had 10 to keep the Cougars in the contest.
Roane was able to maintain anywhere from a three to five point lead early in the second half. They would take 45-40 lead with 14:19 to go in the game. They would keep that advantage under the 13 minute mark. From there, the Cougars went on a 19-4 run to take a 59-49 lead. Kerry Pratt, who entered the game at the 13 minute mark, made his mark as he accounted for 13 of those 19 points on the strength of four treys with one including an "and one" on a foul.
The Raiders would get as close as 64-58, but the Cougars' Darius Turman would turn a loose ball into a layup with 1:38 to play. Demonte Person would hit four free throws down the stretch to cap the celebration. Cleveland only connected on 37.1% of their shots in the second half, but Roane struggled from the field, connecting on only 25.0% of their shots in the half.
Kerry Pratt and Jonathan King both scored in double figures with 16 and 12 points. Domont'a Wright had 11 rebounds while tournament MVP Dalanio Walker had nine. Person would finish with 4 assists. Cleveland would connect on 36.4% of their shots which included 37% from the 3-point. They also were 80% from the free throw line.
Roane had three scorers in double figures led by James Jordan who also had a team high 9 rebounds and five assists. Demeirre Black had 14 points to go with seven rebounds. Kenden Reaves finished with ten. The Raiders shot 36.4% from the field which included 17.6% from 3 point range. they also connected on 70% of their free throws. The Raiders finished with a 14-20 record.