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Highlanders squeak by the Buccaneers in OT

MCC Basketball
MCC Basketball(MCC Basketball)
Published: Nov. 3, 2021 at 10:10 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - The McLennan Highlanders squeaked out a 71-68 overtime victory over the Blinn Buccaneers tonight at The Highlands. It was a low-scoring affair in the first half as both teams struggled to find an offensive rhythm early on.

Blinn’s Alex Tsynkevich found the net with 18:02 on the clock to begin the scoring. McLennan responded with a long CJ Hall jumper just over a minute later to tie the game at two. Shots began to fall for the Buccaneers as they built a six-point lead at 12-6 with 12:57 remaining in the half. A 4-0 run by the Highlanders with a 3-pointer from Jayce Wright and a free throw by Diego Gonzalez trimmed the lead to two midway through the half, 12-10.

Blinn led by three, 18-15 with just under five minutes to play before intermission. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Chris Pryor and Forte Prater gave McLennan its first lead of the contest, 23-18. The Highlanders extended the lead to nine, 29-20 with 43 seconds to play in the half and held the 29-23 at the break. McLennan emerged from the locker room fired up, opening the second half on a 4-0 run to take the first double-digit lead at 33-23 with 18:26 to play in the game. Blinn’s Alex Tsynkevich added a bucket to trim the lead to eight.

The Highlanders’ CJ Hall responded with a 5-0 run on his own to put McLennan up by 13, 38-25. The Highlanders led by 15 with 14:40 to go, 44-29. Blinn’s Jan Njock, Tsynkevich and Damian Watson combined to go six for six from the free throw line over the next two minutes to cut the lead back to nine, 44-35.

The Buccaneers continued to chip away, pulling within two with 2:20 to go, 55-53. McLennan’s Diego Gonzalez added a free throw with 1:20 to play to put the Highlanders up by three, 56-53. Damian Watson went 1-2 from the free throw line for the Buccaneers to get within two, 56-54.

The Highlanders’ Chris Pryor drained a jumper with an expiring shot clock to go back up by four but Blinn responded quickly with a Jaja Sanni bucket to make it a 58-56 McLennan lead with 24.24 seconds to play. Chris Pryor added a free throw with 12.4 seconds to go to put the Highlanders up 59-56 but a Maurice Pinnock’s 3-pointer from the top of the key with two seconds to go tie the game and forced overtime. 

Blinn opened the extra period on a 6-0 run. A bucket and pair of free throws from Justin Wilson pulled the Highlanders within two, 65-63 with 1:25 remaining in overtime. A bucket and one by Pinnock put Blinn back on top by five, 68-63. McLennan’s Pryor drained a 3-pointer from the elbow with 28 seconds on the clock to cut the lead to two, 68-66.

CJ Hall and Nehemiah Nuckolls combined to go 3-4 from the free throw line to put the Highlanders 69-68 with 4.52 ticks on the clock. A regular foul and unsportsmanlike foul on Blinn put Hall on the line for four more free throws. Hall went 2-4 from the line to seal the win. Diego Gonzalez and CJ Hall led the Highlanders with 15 points each, and Chris Pryor added 11. 

McLennan returns to action Friday, hosting MCC Classic at The Highlands. Play begins at 2 p.m. with the Tyler and Southwestern Christian, followed by the Hill and Victoria men at 4 p.m. The Highlassies will play Angelina at 6 p.m., followed by the Highlanders against the Our Lady of the Lake JV at 8 p.m.

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