The New Mexico Military Institute Bronco basketball team started off the season on the right foot, jumping past the Jegos of Tohono O'odham Communtiy College, 81-58.
It was the second game of the 2019 NMMI Classic Basketball Tournament, a round-robin affair on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 1-2, to tip-off the season, with four teams competing. Conference opponent Frank Phillips College survived a late run by Strength 'N Motion International in the tourney opener, 81-66.
NMMI was down early due to missed shots from the field and trailed 10-4 after the first four minutes of play. But their stingy play on defense kept the Jegos from breaking out to an insurmountable lead. After the initial first-game jitters wore off, the Bronco offense starting clicking, spurred on by a huge block from Institute 7-foot-1 center Osborn Shema. Shema got the bucket on the other end of the floor after an assist from point guard Andrew Cotton, cutting the Jego lead to two, 10-8, with 15 minutes left in the first half.
Shooting guard Kylin Robinson then went a three-point tear, raining a trio of treys in the next minute a half to give NMMI a lead they'd never relinquish.
Good shot selection, great defense and impressive rebounding paved the way to an NMMI lead at halftime, 43-26.
The second half was more of the same with NMMI contesting every Tohono pass, and gobbling up anything left on the glass. Particularly impressive on the boards was small forward John Mapiou. He had 16 rebounds on the night to lead the Broncs, including 10 on offense.
Top scorer for the Institute was Robinson with 21. He went 5-for-8 from behind the arc, but also showed his ability to play inside with a dunk and dribble-drive for four of his six points in the paint.
Cotton topped the team in assists with 11, nine of which he accumulated in the first half alone.
Forwards Furha Cadeaux and Zachary Bates both came close to getting the coveted double-double: Cadeaux scored 10 points and collected eight boards; Bates poured in 14 and pulled down eight.
"I think our defense really established themselves from the very beginning of the game," said head NMMI coach Seasn Schooley. "That's something we've been working on from Day 1. We were a little jittery at the start, but we settled down and then we got a spark from the rebounding of Mapiou, the defense of Jeremiah (Barr) and the block by Shema. That kind of play is going to keep us in games and give us a puncher's chance to win, even on nights when we're not hitting from 25 feet."
Schooley and his Broncos will take on Strength 'N Motion tomorrow at 3:00 PM MDT to wrap up this year's Classic, with Frank Phillips squaring off against Tohono in the one o'clock matchup. Both games will be held at the Cahoon Armory gym on the NMMI campus, and public is encouraged to come out and watch some great junior college basketball.