HOBBS, N.M. – The Roughriders hit from downtown early and often in Saturday’s early-afternoon contest in which the Yavapai College men’s basketball team defeated the New Mexico Junior College Thunderbirds 56-51 to cap off its last game in the NMJC Classic and move to 1-1 on the early season.
The victory also doubled as Head Coach Jay Joyner’s first career victory at the helm of the Roughriders.
“I’m happy for the guys,” said Joyner. “They accepted the challenge and came away with a solid road win. We must continue to improve and get better every day!”
Sporting their gray uniforms, the Roughriders came out of the gates red-hot as freshman forward Evan Joyner knocked down a jumper to start things off and was followed by a couple of three balls from freshman guard Cardell Bailey to give YC an early 8-0 lead.
With 13 minutes left to play in the first half, sophomore guard Josh Favors sunk a couple of three-pointers to give YC a commanding 14-4 lead, forcing a Thunderbird timeout.
After the timeout, Bailey drove down the lane and scored with a dunk and added a couple more three balls while Joyner also drilled one from downtown and the Roughriders took a 25-22 lead into the break, though the squad led by as much as 25-14 at one point.
After halftime, the Thunderbirds quickly completed their 11-0 run and tied things up at 25, however, YC wasted no time in taking its big lead right back.
On the next possession, sophomore center Mandell Campbell collected an offensive rebound on a strong play and drained a jumper to move the score to 27-25. Coupled with some defensive stops, Joyner and Campbell hit from downtown on the next two possessions and in the blink of an eye, the Roughriders led 33-25.
The Thunderbirds showed no quit, however, and fought all the way back, taking a 47-42 lead on the Roughriders with 3:30 left to play in regulation.
This time, it was YC who showed no quit and continued the seesaw battle with what had been working for the Roughriders all game long: the three ball. Freshman guard Ti Cochrane was left wide open from beyond the arc with just over three minutes to go and hit his shot to trim the deficit to 47-45.
One minute later and after an NMJC score, freshman guard Aleksa Ristic caught fire and hit from downtown to trim the deficit to 49-48. Deja vu then struck the NMJC gym as once more the Thunderbirds scored, however, one minute later, Ristic hit another three to tie things up at 51-51 with 1:21 left to play in the game with possession in favor of the Thunderbirds.
After strong defense from the Roughriders forced a missed shot from the Thunderbirds, NMJC was able to collect the offensive rebound and threatened to take more time off the clock while looking for the go-ahead score. That’s when Bailey hustled to the ball and pressured the Thunderbirds into a turnover with under one minute to play.
After the steal from Bailey, the Roughriders wasted no time and got the ball into the hands of the red-hot Ristic who promptly drained a three-pointer, giving YC a 54-51 lead with 40 seconds left to play in regulation.
The Roughriders then got a stop and freshman forward Elisha Brown drained a couple of free throws to put the game on ice and secure the 56-51 victory with Ristic taking home the game-tying and game-winning shot.
Overall, YC made 15 three-pointers in the contest: four from Bailey and three from Ristic and Joyner. Bailey led the Roughriders in scoring with 14 while Joyner finished with 11 and Ristic finished with nine.
The Roughriders are back in action on Monday, November 14, in Prescott, Arizona, at Walraven Gymnasium for their home opener against Otero with gametime set for 7:30 p.m.
– D.J. Irwin