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JUCO basketball: Warriors fall to No. 1 Barton in national semifinals

Mar. 29—HUTCHINSON, Ks. — Davontae Hall gave the Warriors the start they were looking for, sinking a 3-pointer off a rebound from Chris Mpaka to close out the first possession of Thursday's national tournament showdown with top-ranked Barton.

Barton, however, quickly responded by scoring the next seven points. The Cougars kept responding each time Indian Hills made a run, ultimately putting away a 93-78 win in the semifinals of the NJCAA Division I National Basketball Tournament.

The Warriors finish their first season under the guidance of Josh Sash with a record of 29-6, making it to the national tournament semifinals in consecutive seasons for the first time in 24 years. Sash becomes the first IHCC head men's basketball coach to lead the team to the national tournament semifinals in his first season since Mike Capaccio led the Warriors to the program's third consecutive national championship in his inaugural year taking over for Terry Carroll heading into the 1998-99 campaign.

Barton, which lost the national championship to Indian Hills in 1999, returns to the title game for just the second time in program history. The Cougars will take on seventh-seeded Triton, a team IHCC split with during the regular season, on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m.

Indian Hills responded to Barton's early seven-point run, regaining the lead early in the first half as Hall sank consecutive 3-pointers as part of an 8-0 response by the Warriors to take a 13-10 lead. Barton responded with a 12-1 run to regain the lead for good.

The Warriors cut the lead to 33-27 late in the first half on a 3-pointer by Kheni Briggs. Barton, however, responded by scoring the final seven points of the half building a 40-27 lead heading into the second half.

The Cougars outscored Indian Hills 44-30 in the paint, stretching the lead out to 54-34 early in the second half. The Warriors responded by scoring eight straight points, cutting Barton's lead to 11, before a 3-pointer by Lajae Jones gave the Cougars a 59-45 lead with 11:51 left.

Indian Hills never got closer than 10 points the rest of the game, nearly cutting the deficit to nine on a steal by William Beugre-Kassi. The Cougars, however, forced a miss on the breakaway lay-up attempt before heading back down the court resulting in a pair of free throws by Jones on the fifth and final foul of the game on Mpaka with 2:25 left.

Jones finished with a game-high 25 points for Barton (36-1), including a breakaway dunk off a steal by Cooper Jackson opening a 15-point lead. Braden Sparks responded by sinking a 3-pointer with under two minutes left before Trevion LaBeaux scored inside on a putback that pulled Indian Hills within 85-74 with 1:45 to go.

Myles Thompson, however, countered the putback by LaBeaux by scoring a pressbreak by the Cougars with 1:35 left. T.J. Morris was then called for an intentional foul after losing the ball to Mozae Downing-Rivers, ultimately leading to a technical foul called on Sash for arguing the call allowing Barton to put the game away from the free-throw line.

Thompson added 21 points and nine rebounds for Barton. Brent Moss and Keandre Kindell both reached double figures in scoring off the bench for the Cougars with Moss scoring 13 points while Kindell added 10 points in the win.

Hall and Sparks each scored 17 points to pace Indian Hills in the final game of the season. Morris added 12 points and a team-leading six assists for the Warriors.