SHERIDAN — Part of rebounding a basketball requires height and positioning, while another portion of rebounding requires heart and toughness. Sean Sutherlin embodied the latter in the waning moments of the Generals’ Region IX quarterfinal game against Northeastern Junior College.
Sutherlin — a guard, standing 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds — navigated through, around and over the Plainsmen’s taller post players after a missed free throw from teammate AJ Bramah. Sutherlin corralled the ball, gathered himself, scooped and scored, all while being fouled.
The sophomore finished off the old-fashioned 3-point play at the charity stripe with under a minute to play, and that provided the difference in SC’s 74-72 come-from-behind victory over Northeastern JC at the Bruce Hoffman Golden Dome Thursday.
“That play was a game changer,” Sheridan’s Cam Reece said. “That’s an NBA-type-Finals play.”
Sutherlin’s 3-point play gave the Generals their first lead since the 3:24 mark of the second half, but 16 seconds still remained. After a timeout, Northeastern JC’s Ryan Bagley came off a screen and hoisted a contested 3-pointer that would have won the game as time expired, but it trickled out of the cylinder.
“Honestly, when the ball was in the air, I was scared,” Reece said. “But he missed, luckily. Right now, a win is a win. We can’t really complain. We just got to survive and advance.”
Sheridan advances to the semifinals where it’ll meet North Platte Community College at the Golden Dome Friday at 7 p.m. The Knights downed Central Wyoming College 91-78 Thursday in the quarterfinals.
Sutherlin provided the late-game heroics, but overall, Thursday’s game for the Generals was ugly. Sheridan shot 42 percent (23 of 55) from the floor. It hit 18 percent (4 of 22) from beyond the 3-point line while going 24 of 36 from the charity stripe.
Adham Eleeda, who paced SC in its region-tournament opener with eight 3s, only hit one of eight attempts from deep. Josh Bagley went 1-of-4 from 3 and Javary Christmas — who finished with 16 points off the bench — only went 4-of-10 from the floor, connecting on just two of his six shots from beyond the 3-point arc.
“We found a way to win when we weren’t shooting worth a crap,” SC head coach Matt Hammer said. “I got to be proud of my guys for that.”
Hammer has long told his team that it’s their defense that will carry them as far as they want to go. And that’s what saved Sheridan Thursday. The Generals out-rebounded the Plainsmen 43-31 and held them to 41 percent (24 of 58) from the floor and 40 percent (10 of 25) from 3-point land.
Sheridan owned a 16-point lead, 36-20, with under six minutes to play in the opening half. Northeastern JC cut its deficit down to 41-32 at the halftime break and continued to whittle it down until it was completely gone with 13:43 left in the game.
The last 13 minutes of the contest saw five ties and four lead changes. The Generals’ held as large as a five-point lead and the Plainsmen, at one point, led by four.
Reece — who finished with a double-double, consisting of 18 points and 13 rebounds — gave Sheridan a 57-52 advantage on a couple free throws with 10:14 to play. Ryan Bagley — who scored a game-high 20 points for Northeastern JC — tallied seven straight to pull his team even at 59, and a trey from Ben Davis II staked the Plainsmen to a 63-59 edge with 6:26 to play.
Numerous parties played a vital role in the final six minutes for SC. AJ Bramah — who also had a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds — scored five straight, Jay Lewis made a pair of free throws, and Reece connected on a field goal and a couple free throws, which helped Sheridan remain in striking distance for Sutherlin’s theatrics.
After the game, Sutherlin was surrounded by teammates and a large student section that wanted to celebrate with him. Sutherlin had come through, and he can’t wait to get back after it Friday.
“It was one of the best atmospheres I’ve ever played in,” Sutherlin said. “The fan support was amazing. … I just can’t wait until [Friday].”
Northeastern JC….32 40 — 72
Sheridan College…41 33 — 74
Northeastern JC — Bagley 20; Johnson 20; Diallo 12; Doria 7; Davis II 6; Ferrin 4; Lange 3
Sheridan College — Reece 18; Christmas 16; Bramah 13; Sutherlin 8; Bagley 7; Vuksanovic 6; Eleeda 3; Lewis 3
Northeastern JC 31 (Diallo 7); Sheridan College 43 (Bramah 13; Reece 13)
Northeastern JC 12 (Johnson 6); Sheridan College 8 (Bagley 3; Christmas 3)