The McLennan Highlanders squeaked out a 71-68 overtime victory over the Blinn Buccaneers tonight at The Highlands.
It was a low-scoring affair in the first half as both teams struggled to find an offensive rhythm early on. Blinn's Alex Tsynkevich found the net with 18:02 on the clock to begin the scoring. McLennan responded with a long CJ Hall jumper just over a minute later to tie the game at two. Shots began to fall for the Buccaneers as they built a six-point lead at 12-6 with 12:57 remaining in the half. A 4-0 run by the Highlanders with a 3-pointer from Jayce Wright and a free throw by Diego Gonzalez trimmed the lead to two midway through the half, 12-10. Blinn led by three, 18-15 with just under five minutes to play before intermission. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Chris Pryor and Forte Prater gave McLennan its first lead of the contest, 23-18. The Highlanders extended the lead to nine, 29-20 with 43 seconds to play in the half and held the 29-23 at the break.
McLennan emerged from the locker room fired up, opening the second half on a 4-0 run to take the first double-digit lead at 33-23 with 18:26 to play in the game. Blinn's Alex Tsynkevich added a bucket to trim the lead to eight. The Highlanders' CJ Hall responded with a 5-0 run on his own to put McLennan up by 13, 38-25. The Highlanders led by 15 with 14:40 to go, 44-29. Blinn's Jan Njock, Tsynkevich and Damian Watson combined to go six for six from the free throw line over the next two minutes to cut the lead back to nine, 44-35. The Buccaneers continued to chip away, pulling within two with 2:20 to go, 55-53. McLennan's Diego Gonzalez added a free throw with 1:20 to play to put the Highlanders up by three, 56-53. Damian Watson went 1-2 from the free throw line for the Buccaneers to get within two, 56-54. The Highlanders' Chris Pryor drained a jumper with an expiring shot clock to go back up by four but Blinn responded quickly with a Jaja Sanni bucket to make it a 58-56 McLennan lead with 24.24 seconds to play. Chris Pryor added a free throw with 12.4 seconds to go to put the Highlanders up 59-56 but a Maurice Pinnock's 3-pointer from the top of the key with two seconds to go tie the game and forced overtime.
Blinn opened the extra period on a 6-0 run. A bucket and pair of free throws from Justin Wilson pulled the Highlanders within two, 65-63 with 1:25 remaining in overtime. A bucket and one by Pinnock put Blinn back on top by five, 68-63. McLennan's Pryor drained a 3-pointer from the elbow with 28 seconds on the clock to cut the lead to two, 68-66. CJ Hall and Nehemiah Nuckolls combined to go 3-4 from the free throw line to put the Highlanders 69-68 with 4.52 ticks on the clock. A regular foul and unsportsmanlike foul on Blinn put Hall on the line for four more free throws. Hall went 2-4 from the line to seal the win.
McLennan returns to action Friday, hosting MCC Classic at The Highlands. Play begins at 2 p.m. with the Tyler and Southwestern Christian, followed by the Hill and Victoria men at 4 p.m. The Highlassies will play Angelina at 6 p.m., followed by the Highlanders against the Our Lady of the Lake JV at 8 p.m.
Blinn: Calvin Carpenter 2 5-5 9; Maurice Pinnock 2 0-0 6; Tyler Washington 3 0-3 6; Jan Njock 1 2-2 4; Alex Tsynkevich 4 5-7 13; Damian Watson 2 3-5 7; Connor Redrow 2 1-2 5; Connor Raines 2 1-2 5; Jaja Sanni 6 1-3 13; Elias Ngoga 0 0-0 0; Totals: 24 18-29 68.
McLennan: Forte Prater 2 0-0 5; Dillon Gooding 2 0-0 5; CJ Hall 4 5-8 15; Rommell Williams 0 0-0 0; Anthony Simmons 0 0-0 0; Jayce Wright 1 0-0 2; Nehemiah Nuckolls 0 2-6 2; Chris Pryor 4 1-4 11; Diego Gonzalez 5 5-8 15; Khalif Allim 0 0-0 0; Cortland Blake 1 0-0 2; Kirk Smith Jr. 4 0-1 8; Javani Brown 1 0-0 2; Justin Wilson 1 2-2 4; Totals: 25 15-29 71.
3-pointers: Blinn 2 (Pinnock 2), McLennan 6 (Hall 2, Pryor 2, Prater 1, Gooding 1); Total fouls: Blinn 28, McLennan 29; Halftime score: McLennan 29, Blinn 23; Record: McLennan 2-0.