SGTC Jets drop 88 – 80 decision to South Plains in NJCAA Division I National Tournament
Published 1:30 am Friday, March 18, 2022
From Staff Reports
HUTCHINSON, KS – The 19th seeded South Georgia Technical College Jets fell eight points shy of a victory in the National Junior College Athletic Association’s (NJCAA) Men’s Division I national basketball tournament when they faced the 14th ranked South Plains Texans in the first round.
“I am very proud of these guys,” said South Georgia Technical College Jets head coach Chris Ballauer. “This is the first time any of them had played in a national tournament and I think they surprised some people with how well they performed. I am not sure the guys realize what they accomplished this season, but winning the District tournament and having the opportunity to play in a national tournament is a successful season. We would have liked to have gone further, but we represented our state, conference, and college very well.”
SGTC first year head coach Chris Ballauer was spotlighted as the beginning of the game with the NJCAA Southeast District Coach of the Year award. Steve Showalter of the Hutchinson American Legion and host of the Jets, made the presentation to Ballauer before the two teams stepped on the court. Ballauer led the Jets to a 22 – 12 record this season, a second-place finish in the Georgia Collegiate Athletic Association regular season and the GCAA tournament championship title as well as the NJCAA Southeast District title for Region XVII.
The Jets gained the respect of the higher ranked South Plains Texans when Will Johnston drove inside and got the Jets on the scoreboard first. The Jets and South Plains exchanged baskets for a few minutes but the Jets managed to take an eight-point lead with 14:56 remaining in the first half. South Plains closed the gap to two points with 11:52 left in the first half. The Jets held South Plains scoreless for almost three minutes and went up 27 – 18 with 9:12 on the clock.
South Plains bounced back and took a 32 – 31 lead with less than four minutes in the half. They stretched that lead to six points before the Jets closed the gap to two points, 40 – 42 at the half. Marvin McGhee was the only Jet in double-figures at the half with 13 points but Jalen Reynolds, Will Johnston, and Justice Hayes were balanced scorers with six points each.
Despite being down by two points at the half, the Jets came back and sank the first basket to tie the game at 42-42 in the first 15 seconds of play. They were able to pull ahead by seven points before South Plans tied the game at 58 – 58 with 10:45 remaining. The two teams battled back and fourth for the next three minutes and the game was tied 67 – 67 with 7:52 remaining. South Plains was able to pull ahead by 10 points in the final five minutes and the game ended with the Texans upending the Jets 88 – 80.
Sophomore point guard Will Johnston led the Jets in scoring with 21 points and sophomore guard Marvin McGhee, III was close behind with 20 points. McGhee also led the team in rebounding with 11 for a double-double day. Malik Battle was the only other Jet in double-figures with 11 points.
Sophomore forward Jalen Reynolds contributed nine points and two rebounds. Bryce Turner had seven points and two rebounds, and then Matija Milivojevic and Justice Hayes both added six points. Four members of the South Plains team had double-figures and they were led by Kieves Reeves with 28.
“South Plains shot the three-point ball much better than they had all season,” said Chris Ballauer. “They hit nearly 40% of their outside shots and they outrebounded us 42 – 34.” The Texans also scored more points in the paint, had more second chance points and their bench outscored the Jets bench two to one.
“I believe we were pretty evenly matched and we had the opportunity to win, but at the final buzzer, they were the ones on top,” said Coach Ballauer, who was quick to add that not many people expected his team to win the District and advance to the National Tournament with a first-year head coach.
“We had some adversity this season, but these guys did what we asked them to do and they got to the national tournament on the 75th anniversary of the NJCAA men’s Division I playoffs. That is pretty impressive,” said Ballauer.
This is only the third time in the 20-year history of the Jets program that they had advanced to the National Tournament. Steven Wright, former SGTC Jets head coach took the Jets to the nationals in 2009 and 2014. Chris Ballauer, the fifth head coach of the Jets, secured the third trip.
Both the Jets and the Lady Jets earned the right to advance to the national tournament. This was only the second time in 20-years South Georgia Tech had two teams nationally ranked. The other time was in 2014.