SHERIDAN — With less than a minute to play in the Region IX championship game Saturday, Sheridan College head coach Matt Hammer subbed out Cam Reece and Josh Bagley. It wasn’t a strategic substitution like most of the ones Hammer has made during the season but rather a ceremonious one.

With the Generals trailing by double figures and playing in the Bruce Hoffman Golden Dome one last time this season, Hammer wanted to share one final moment with two sophomores that have made a significant impression on him and the college.

The hug between coach and player was a bittersweet one for the fact that Sheridan came up short in the title game against Casper College. The Thunderbirds downed the Generals 87-74, claiming an automatic bid to the National Junior College Athletic Association national tournament.

“I say it was more of us not sticking to our game plan, getting back, staying together, playing together,” Bagley said. “… Kudos to [Casper] for having a great game, coming in, showing up and playing. They won. Congratulations to them. We didn’t do our part.”

Sheridan will have to wait and see if its body of work this season warrants one of the eight available at-large bids.

The Generals struggled offensively Saturday night in front of a standing-room-only crowd. Sheridan shot 36 percent (27 of 76) from the floor and hit just 14 percent (4 of 28) of its 3-point attempts.

“I’m so proud of the guys,” Hammer said. “They showed heart. We just didn’t get it to fall. Some of the 3s might have been a little quick, and that’s where we have to move the ball more in our half-court offense. If we don’t get it in transition, we got to move it around and make that defense work, and try to loosen them up and get some open looks.”

Cam Reece recorded a double-double for Sheridan, consisting of 15 points and 12 rebounds. AJ Bramah also had 15 points, and Sean Sutherlin added 14 points.

Isaac Bonton poured in a game-high 32 points for the Thunderbirds. Wilfried Likayi tallied 23 points and 10 rebounds, while Amin Adamu and Broc Finstuen chipped in 15 and 10 points, respectively.

Casper connected on 51 percent (34 of 67) of its field-goal attempts and 18 percent (2 of 11) of its attempts from 3-point and.

Sheridan will learn its fate Monday morning during a selection show that will be streamed online.