Having two teams in the men’s and women’s finals of the Region XIV Conference basketball tournaments brought a rejuvenated spirit to Kilgore College sports that the institution hasn’t experienced in years, at least since the Rangers made the national tournament in 2013.
Sadly, though, in came to an end for both on Saturday night.
The KC Lady Rangers, in the tournament final at John Alexander Gymnasium for a second straight year, slipped to San Jacinto, and in the men’s title game, Tyler Junior College held off the Rangers.
The Lady Rangers were seeded third and had been expected to do well, and they did. The KC men, though, were seeded ninth after a rough regular season, and far exceeded expectations, beating Bossier Parish in the first round, knocking off top-seeded Trinity Valley in round two, and defeating former coach Scott Schumacher and Blinn in the semis.
• San Jac 66, KC 58 (women): Eryka Sydney scored 23 points and had four assists for the Lady Gators, in what will be their last appearance in this tournament; the college is discontinuing its basketball programs after this season.
Jade Thurmon continued her magnificent run for KC, finishing with 37 points, seven rebounds and three assists. But San Jac held KC’s other players all under double figures in scoring. Patience Idoko had the highest total after Thurmon, and she had six points.
Danielle Meador had five points; Hennessey Handy had four; and Tyra Cormier and Alicia Mardis each had two. KC was outrebounded in the game, 37-28, and Thurmon had seven.
KC ladies coach Anna Nimz has been a godsend for the women’s basketball program in her three seasons here. The Lady Rangers have done nothing but trend up, making the women’s conference tournament in both the last two seasons and getting to the title game on both occasions.
In her three seasons as head coach, KC is 58-36. In just the three seasons prior to Nimz’s arrival, the Lady Rangers were 32-48.
Thurmon was one of the conference’s leading scorers this season and the dynamic of the KC women’s basketball program has changed, once again taking the form of one of the conference’s elite programs. When national tournament berths were announced by the NJCAA Monday morning, KC was not in the field.
Still, rather than just hoping to make the conference tournament, the Lady Rangers have to be considered one of the favorites to win it, and that’s a far cry, in a good way, from where the program was when Nimz took it over.
• TJC 59, KC 56 (men): The Rangers had been the hottest team in the tournament, but were finally cooled off by a good performance by archrival Tyler.
But it took the Apaches the entire length of the game, down to the final buzzer, before they could breathe easily.
TJC took a lead midway through the second half and held onto it for much of what was remaining. KC tied the game at 53 with a basket by Chad Bowie, with a minute and a half left.
TJC got a pair of free throws with 3 ½ seconds left that gave Tyler a 59-56 edge. KC had time for a shot, and they inbounded the ball to Bowie, who managed to get off a long three-pointer that would’ve tied the contest had it fallen, but it hit the rim just after the buzzer, and Tyler had held on.
Bowie led the Rangers (19-13) with 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
Like the Lady Rangers, no other KC player hit double figures. Davon Newton had eight. Demeire Brown, one of the heroes of the Rangers’ win over Trinity Valley, also had eight, and seven rebounds. Darrian Grays had six, and three assists. Samory Gueye had five points and five rebounds; Lansana Nwosu had four points. Daytone Jennings had four points and blocked two shots. Malachi Davidson scored three.
Brian Warren of Tyler led all scorers with 20 points.
KC has, for the most part, been very good under coach Brian Hoberecht in his 10 seasons. Hoberecht, since coming over from the Jayhawk Conference a decade ago, is 124-61 at KC. The 2012-13 season, of course, was the best, a 27-6 record and trip to Kansas for the NJCAA national tournament.
The Rangers did miss the conference tournament altogether last year, but they’ve been to the tournament every season under Hoberecht except that one.