SHERIDAN — In a win-or-go-home scenario, Northwest College had no plans to return to Powell.
The No. 8-seeded Trappers outplayed top-seeded Sheridan College for the majority of Saturday’s opening-round Region IX tournament game inside the Bruce Hoffman Golden Dome.
Northwest crashed the glass harder, drove the ball to the rim more effectively and shot it well from the floor.
That fruited a double-digit second-half lead, and the No. 11 Generals were left searching for answers.
That’s when Adham Eleeda stepped up.
The Sheridan sophomore sharpshooter rediscovered his form from deep — which included a span of five consecutive 3-pointers — as the Generals rallied for an 89-83 victory.
“That’s what Adham does. That’s what we rely on Adham to do,” Sheridan’s Javary Christmas said. “He hasn’t had it going the last couple games, and for him to come out and just clear out all the noise and just knock down 3s was big.”
Eleeda — who hovered right around the 50-percent mark from 3-point land during the first couple months of the season — had hit a lull lately. In the month of February, Eleeda connected on just 18 of his 62 attempts from 3-point land.
How did Eleeda remedy this? Practice. Eleeda said he put up at least 800 shots Friday night in preparation for Saturday, and it paid off in a big way.
Northwest controlled the first 30 minutes of the game. The Trappers led 48-43 at halftime and every time Sheridan made a push, Northwest pushed back.
“They just came and played hard,” Christmas said. “They were making shots, but they were out-hearting us. We weren’t playing hard, and we weren’t locking in as a team. They were locked in. They came to play. They played better than us.”
After SC trimmed its deficit to 58-55 on two free throws from Sean Sutherlin at the 13:04 mark, Northwest answered with a 7-0 run that gave it its first double-digit lead of the night. It didn’t appear as though any General took SC head coach Matt Hammer’s halftime plea for more energy to heart. That is until Eleeda caught fire.
Eleeda, who poured in a team-high 24 points, made the Trappers’ lead evaporate rapidly. He hit his first 3 of the second half at the 10:42 mark, which made it a 65-58 game in favor of Northwest. A little more than five minutes later, Eleeda drained his fifth consecutive 3 that gave the Generals a 73-67 advantage.
“There was one where I didn’t even look to see if it went in or not,” Eleeda said. “I was just waiting for the fans reaction.”
Sheridan also tightened up defensively. The Generals didn’t allow Northwest, which only managed to total 53 points in its regular-season game at Sheridan, to have many good looks offensively in the second half. Sheridan also crashed the glass much harder in the second 20 minutes.
“The shots [Northwest] was getting in the second half, they actually had to work for them,” Hammer said. “They were a little tougher, and most of them were contested. When we can get stops, and when we can get out and run the floor and pitch the ball ahead, we are pretty dang good.”
Christmas — who ended the game with 22 points off the bench — finished off a key 4-point play with 5:52 left in the game, and Eleeda hit one more trey for good measure at the 2:35 mark that gave the Generals seem breathing room at 82-74.
Sutherlin tallied 11 points for the game, and Cam Reece added 10 points for SC, which shot 56 percent (29 of 52) from the field and 54 percent (15 of 28) from 3-point land.
Northwest finished shooting 51 percent (31 of 61) from the floor and 46 percent (12 of 26) from deep.
Sheridan College advances to the quarterfinals where it’ll play No. 5-seeded Northeast Junior College Thursday at 7 p.m. inside the Bruce Hoffman Golden Dome.
Northwest College…48 35 — 83
Sheridan College….43 46 — 89
Northwest College — Fugett Jr. 28; Torbert 23; Grantsaan 19; Webster 8; Feliz 3; Dehon 2
Sheridan College — Eleeda 24; Christmas 22; Sutherlin 11; Reece 10; Bagley 9; Vuksanovic 4; Lewis 4; Gummerus 3; Bramah 2
Northwest College 29 (Webster 9); Sheridan College 28 (Reece 6)
Northwest College 15 (Grantsaan 5); Sheridan College (Bagley 8)