SHERIDAN — Elijah Blake has seen his fair share of adversity this season. From struggling the first semester, to carving out a valuable roll off the bench during conference play to sustaining an injury in the latter half of the season, there’s not much that the Sheridan College redshirt freshman hasn’t seen in just a short few month’s time.
Blake — who had played a combined 32 minutes in the last four games, scoring just two points total — didn’t stuff the stat sheet Friday night, scoring seven points against North Platte Community College at the Bruce Hoffman Golden Dome. He didn’t take over the Region IX tournament semifinal game for the Generals, but he simply steadied the point-guard position and defended at a high level in SC’s 95-88 victory.
“Elijah didn’t play tonight at all because of offensive things, he played because of his defense,” SC head coach Matt Hammer said. “He’s tough, he’s quick, he can get down in a stance. He knows how to guard, and that’s what got him on the floor tonight.”
Sheridan advances to play Casper College in the Region IX tournament championship Saturday at 7 p.m. with an automatic bid to the National Junior College Athletic Association national tournament.
If the Generals are to contend for that automatic bid, they’ll likely need a similar game from Adham Eleeda.
The Sheridan College sophomore poured in a game-high 26 points Friday, which included eight 3-pointers — a far cry from his three-point output in the quarterfinals.
AJ Bramah and Sean Sutherlin had strong games in their own right, as they both tallied 20 points and seven rebounds.
The Generals also received key contributions from the likes of Sasa Vuksanovic and Jay Lewis, who chipped in seven and five points, respectively.
“You got Josh Bagley not scoring a basket, and Cam Reece scores two points, and we are able go get a win like we did,” Hammer said. “It’s just a big sign of how deep we are, and the quality of depth we have.”
Sheridan shot 56 percent (33 of 59) from the floor and 44 percent (12 of 27) from 3-point land. North Platte CC connected on 48 percent (31 of 65) of its field-goal attempts and 47 percent (9 of 19) of its 3-point attempts.
The Generals built a double-digit lead midway through the first half at 28-17. They closed the half on a 10-2 run to push that advantage out to 56-38.
Much like its quarterfinal game against Northeastern JC, Sheridan allowed the Knights to climb back into the game. After taking a 68-46 lead on a 3 from Eleeda at the 16:32 mark, North Platte CC used a 7-2 spurt and a 10-2 run to pull within 10 at 78-68.
The Knights continued to hack away at their deficit and trimmed it to as little as six points, 82-76, with 4:51 left, but that’s as close as the drew.
Sheridan will now turn its focus to Casper, which it split with this season. The Generals defeated the Thunderbirds 97-87 Jan. 16 in Sheridan, while Casper held serve at home Feb. 23, downing Sheridan 97-78.
In the most recent matchup, the Generals were hurt on the glass — being out-rebounded in one of the rare instances this season — and had trouble limiting the Thunderbirds’ transition buckets.
Sheridan hasn’t lost a home game in over two years and with some much at stake Saturday, Blake expects a hotly-contested game.
“It’s going to be a war,” Blake said. “It’s going to be a battle. Everybody in this gym knows what it is. Our team knows what it is. They know what it is, and we are going to leave it all out there, and we’ll just the final results speak of itself.”
North Platte CC…..38 50 — 88
Sheridan College…56 39 — 95
North Platte CC — Kaufmanis 17; Murrell 14; Tyrtyshnik 13; Karwowski 11; Johnson 10; Nducuia 10; Christen 9; Karwowski 4
Sheridan College — Eleeda 26; Bramah 20; Sutherlin 20; Vuksanovic 8; Blake 7; Christmas 7; Lewis 5; Reece 2
North Platte CC 31 (Karwowski 8); Sheridan College 36 (Reece 8)
North Platte CC 18 (Tyrtyshnik 4); Sheridan College 21 (Bagley 6; Bramah 6)