Basketball (M)

Second Half Surge for Pioneers Falls Just Short

Box Score

(Miles City, MT) The Miles Community College Pioneers played their first of two home games in the last weekend of the regular season on Wednesday night as they took on the Casper College Thunderbirds in a Region IX contest.

The Pioneers take the floor on Wednesday after a long Monday night game against Dawson CC. With only one day to recharge the batteries after a triple overtime win against the Buccaneers, MCC hit the home hardwood looking to defend their floor against the Thunderbirds.

A sluggish start from the Pioneers in the first half put their backs against the wall as Casper put together a strong first half. MCC finished with a strong second half, but came up just shy as they fell to Casper 76-73.

Casper’s Josh McSwiggan and Jack Pagenkopf combined for 21 first half points and contributed to what was Casper’s largest lead of the game at 23 points.

MCC’s first field goal of the game came after an Uglijesa Portic three pointer at the thirteen minute mark. Portic’s ice breaker led to three consecutive scoring possessions for the Pioneers including buckets from Oumar Diaby, Montenia Nelson, and Adoum Mbang.

Despite only trailing by ten halfway through the first half, the T-Birds went on a 21-9 run throughout the next eight minutes to give themselves a sizable lead.

MCC’s offensive fires started to heat up in the last two minutes of the first half with three Perion Little field goals to close out the first half and cut the lead to 15 with 20 minutes left to play.

In a similar fashion to Monday night’s game (MCC trailed Dawson by 17 at the half) the Pioneers came out in the second half picking up where they left off.

Starting with a Portic triple, followed up by two Nelson field goals, one of which was a three pointer, MCC saw the lead cut to single digits with 17 minutes to play.

Casper answered with long range shots of their own and held strong with a fifteen point lead until MCC made their final push.

Starting with an Adoum Mbang three point shot, followed by four consecutive Pioneer free throws, MCC was back within nine. Some free throw line struggles for Casper in the second half gave the Pioneers the opening they needed to chip away at the lead. Perion Little connected from down town to cut the lead to eight, and Kameron Rauch followed that up with a 15 footer to bring the lead to six. Nelson and Little hit back to back layups to cap off the 9-0 run and the 23 point first half lead for Casper was dwindled down to two with six minutes to play.

Casper’s free throw woes continued approaching the 3 minute mark and Little and Mbang took advantage, each hitting a shot from inside the paint to cut the lead to one point with three minutes to play.

The one point deficit would be the closest MCC would get to taking the lead as Casper would find their bearings at the free throw line down the stretch. Josh McSwiggan added a five point run of his own to extend the lead to six with under two minutes to play. Four of five Casper free throws with under a minute to play would put the icing on the cake as Casper would fight off the MCC second half surge and walk away with the 76-73 win.

Montenia Nelson would top the scoring chart for both teams with 26 points, while Perion Little and Adoum Mbang would both finish in double digits. Despite 11 rebounds from Uglijesa Portic, MCC would lose the rebound battle 45-39. Casper’s Josh McSwiggan would finish with 19 points and 10 rebounds as he led the way for the T-Birds.

Next up for the ‘Neers:

With the loss, MCC falls to 3-10 in conference play and 11-18 overall. The Pioneers will play their last game of the season against Little Big Horn, who sits at the bottom of the Region IX standings. A Saturday afternoon win won’t change where MCC will play their sub region playoff game but it would be a momentum builder leading into the start of postseason play on March 4th.

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