Storm women, men learn first-round opponents at national tournament

This week the Southeast Community College basketball teams learned who they will be playing in the first round of the national tournament.

Vicki Wooton’s Storm women are on a 14-game winning streak and will open the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II Tournament against Johnson County Community College, the host school, at 6 p.m. March 17. Joel Wooton’s Stormmen will open the NJCAA Division II Tournament against No. 2 seed Phoenix College. The game tips off at 9 a.m. March 17 at Danville Area Community College in Danville, Ill.

“We are very excited for the opportunity to represent SCC in the national tournament for only the second time in school history,” she said. “We are disappointed that we did not get a higher seed. We were rated 14th in the nation two weeks ago and have not lost and now we are only the 14th seed out of 16 that made the tournament. Many were not rated and placed ahead of us. This is disappointing, but we will give it our best shot.”

A victory by the SCC women would send the Storm into an 8 p.m. game March 18 against the winner of Guilford Tech and Schoolcraft. A loss would put SCC into a 9 a.m. game March 19 against the Guilford Tech-Schoolcraft loser.

The SCC women, 22-6, are in the national tournament after placing eighth in 2012.

“The biggest difference between that team and this year’s is we have depth on the bench and a number of scoring threats,” Vicki said. “We have five or six players who can score six to 15 points per game. We also are a better defensive team, are more athletic and quicker and faster.”

Sophomore Breanna Grant leads the team in scoring at 14.3 points per game, followed by freshman Veshae Wilkinson at 10.1 points per game. Sophomores Chelseah Savage (9.7) and Dionne Martin (9.0) aren’t far behind.

Johnson County, 30-2, is the No. 3 seed in the women’s tournament. The Lady Cavaliers are led by Nieka Wheeler and Alexis Brown, both averaging 13 points per game. As a team, JCCC averages 86 points per game.

SCC and Johnson County played twice this season, a 103-64 victory by the Cavaliers on Nov. 18 in Overland Park, and a 76-45 victory over SCC on Jan. 7 in Beatrice.

“Each time we played much better,” Vicki said. “After our loss to them in January we started to play ‘lock-down’ defense and have not lost since then. We know a lot of what they do on offense and know their strengths on defense, plus playing at JCCC is a benefit.”

Vicki said a strong defensive performance, staying out of foul trouble and “playing smart” will be keys to defeating the Cavaliers.

“The second time we played them this season we played pretty well for about 15 minutes,” she said. “We have to play the entire 40 minutes.

“We have a very balanced team, and we hope to get the upset against Johnson County. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”

The SCC men, 13-18, are in the national tournament for the first time since 2008.

“The guys are very excited for the opportunity,” Joel Wooton said. “They are very focused with the task at hand and are trying to approach the game just like they would any other game.”

Three players average in double figures to lead the way for the Storm. Sophomore Altez Davis averages 10.6, sophomore John Swift 10.5 and freshman Snyder Cenecharles 10.4.

A victory by the SCC men would put them into a 6 p.m. game March 18 against the winner of seventh-seeded Lakeland vs. CCBC Dundalk. A loss would put SCC into a 3 p.m. game March 18 against the Lakeland-CCBC Dundalk loser.

Phoenix is the defending NJCAA Division II national champion, won the District 1 title and enters the tournament with a 27-5 record. The Bears are ranked sixth in the latest men’s basketball poll.

We are preparing a game plan to use against Phoenix,” Joel Wooton said. “They have one very high-level player that their team really relies upon to score and set up others. We are working on giving them some different looks defensively and preparing different players on how to play against him without letting the other guys get too much.”

That Phoenix player garnering SCC’s attention is sophomore point guard Brandon Brown, who leads Phoenix offensively, averaging 24.6 points per game. He became the all-time leading scorer in the history of the Bears’ program with a 37-point performance in the Region I semifinals on March 4. In the regional final, Brown poured in 40 points in the Bears’ 80-65 victory over Tohono O'odham Community College.

Sophomore Steve Green is the only other double-figure scorer for the Bears, averaging 11 points per game. As a team the Bears average 82 points per contest.

Joel Wooton said his team is playing much better than it did earlier in the season.

We are playing much better defense, and we are sharing the ball much better,” he said. “They are still learning to trust each other, and it really showed in the district game as we had 10 guys score in the first half alone and only one guy scored in double figures for the game. We are learning that balance is a good thing.”


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Stu Osterthun
Administrative Director of Public Information and Marketing