With Georgia Northwestern Men’s Head Basketball Coach David Stephenson’s win on February 17 over Welch College (TN), the top Bobcat is only three wins away from the 500 victory mark for his career.
Two potential wins towards that plateau could go down in Oxford, Georgia this weekend as the Bobcats square off in NJCAA Region XVII competition in the post-season national qualifying tournament. A first-round game in the district round of the NJCAA National Tournament next week would set the stage for win number 500.
But, it’s ‘win-and-you’re-in’ or ‘lose-and-go-home’ from this point on. It all begins Saturday at 4 p.m. in Williams Gymnasium on the Emory-Oxford campus. That’s when the Bobcats will face-off with West Georgia Tech in the NJCAA Region XVII Semi-Finals. On the other side of the bracket is host Emory-Oxford and Southern Crescent Tech. The finals will take place at 4 p.m., Sunday.
The goal: Two wins in 26 hours.
The Cats (8-16, 2-4) have won at least two in a row twice this season. But this time, Georgia Northwestern has a spot in the National Tournament on the line. For NJCAA Region XVII, the Cats only have to win their semi-final match-up against West Georgia Tech. The region’s top two teams automatically advance to the district round of the national tourney.
The Golden Knights, winners of six of their last eight, won the region last year. The Carrollton, Georgia squad (18-16; 2012-13) came within one game of the NJCAA Elite Eight before falling to Caldwell Tech (NC) last March.
That was a different team. This year’s edition of the Golden Knights is 11-15 overall, 4-2 in region play. The 2013-14 editions of Georgia Northwestern and West Georgia Tech basketball both hover around the .500 mark at home and have sub-par records on the road.
Going into the tournament, the key players to watch are sophomores Tavish Reynolds (Calhoun, GA) and Hunter Ivester (Trion, GA) who earned slots on the All-Region squads for the season. For West Georgia Tech, Orlandis Hill, Devante Orebeau, and Jon Perry earned spots, as well.
“We have to get it in our head that we can play with them,” said Stephenson of West Georgia Tech. “We have to come out ready and confident. We start games a little less than confident. Then, we realize, a little late, that we can play with these squads. So many times we end up a possession or two away.”
Georgia Northwestern fell both at home and away to West Georgia Tech in the regular season. One of the oldest adages from post-seasons past is that beating the same team three times in a single season is tough. “Playing these guys on a neutral site may help out,” said Stephenson. “But simply put, we have to slow the ball down and play smarter basketball than they do. That can earn us a win.”
Other regular season honors included freshman Bobcat Devin Watkins (Cedartown, GA) who was named to the region’s honorable mention list. Ivester was named to the region’s All-Defensive Team. Ivester, along with Cody Cochran (Flintstone, GA) was named to the region’s Academic Achievement Team.
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On the women’s side of the tournament bill this weekend, the Lady Cats find themselves in an unusual position. Georgia Northwestern goes into a win-and-you’re-in NJCAA Region XVII title game as the underdog. In the previous two region crown match-ups in 2012 and 2013, the Lady Cats went into those games as favorites. Sunday at 2 p.m., Georgia Northwestern will be a heavy underdog against the nation’s seventh-ranked team in West Georgia Tech.
The Lady Golden Knights boast the region’s 2013-14 Coach of the Year in Kenny Hill and Player of the Year Kadriana Howard. West Georgia Tech (16-8) leads the nation in steals per game (19.5) and ranks in the top ten in total rebounds per game (47.1) and assists per game (17.4).
Two-Time NJCAA Region XVII Coach of the Year Jim Williams says his Lady Cats have been the underdog before. “We’ve had games where we thought we didn’t have a shot,” said Williams. “But, our team would walk into the gym and fight. Knowing that all it takes for a trip to the next round is one win is a real motivation for this club this week. With this being our third time around against this team, there is a lot we’ve learned and we hope we can make some things happen.”
It all rotates around NJCAA Region XVII All-First Team members Kiarra Parks (Cleveland, TN) and Alyssa Nichelson (Canton, GA). Parks (13.4 ppg) and Nichelson (10.4 ppg) were named All-Tournament Team starters after their freshman showing in the region tourney held last year in Warner Robins, Georgia.
Georgia Northwestern has been in a rebuilding year going 5-17. The Lady Cats finished up the regular season going 2-2 in the final two weeks of play. The two loses, however, were to West Georgia Tech. The Lady Cats advanced to the NJCAA Sweet 16 in 2011-12 losing on the road to Montgomery College-Rockville (MD).
As it is on the men’s side this weekend, West Georgia Tech has to complete one of the tougher things to do in sports to be able to move on. They have to win a third game in three tries in 2013-14 against the Lady Cats to move on.
Other regular season honors included freshman Brecia Hall (Rome, GA) and sophomore Sierra Smith (Armuchee, GA) who made the honorable mention list for their play in the 2013-14 season. Smith was also named to the region’s Academic Achievement Team.
For information on all Georgia Northwestern intercollegiate athletic programs, check out BobcatsCountry.com or e-mail the Bobcat Athletic Department firstname.lastname@example.org. GNTC is a member of the NJCAA, a unit of the Technical College System of Georgia, and an equal opportunity institute.