The Red Ravens men's basketball team is the 2017-2018 NJCAA Region VI champions. The Red Ravens clinched the title beating the Hutchinson Blue Dragons 82-80 in an exciting match up.
The program had an impressive run through the tournament, beating Seward, Garden City before facing off against Hutchinson. The match up marks two straight years the Red Ravens and Blue Dragons squared off in the championship, each coming down to the last possession.
Defense was the key to their tournament run. In each of their first two games, the Jay Herkelman lead team held their opponents under 65 points, and even though the Blue Dragons scored 80, the impressive defense of the Red Ravens held them five points under their season average (85.7 points per game).
"I am proud of the toughness the guys showed throughout the tournament. When we needed a stop defensively we got it," said Herkelman. "When we needed someone to make a play offensively someone stepped up and did."
Throughout the tournament, the Red Ravens averaged 40 rebounds (50 against Garden City) and 9 (15 against Seward) steals per game. The theme has been prevalent all year and through their current 17 game winning streak.
The usual suspects were at it again for the Red Ravens. For the tournament, Joshua Hill (23 rebounds, 7.6 per game), Cedric Roland (13, 4.3), and Keon Queen (12, 4.0) were solid defenders that gave the Red Raven offense second and third chances on plays.
"[I am] really happy the committee recognized how hard Hill plays by selecting him to the All Tournament Team," said Herkelman.
While their defense was outstanding throughout the tournament the Red Raven offense, lead by sophomore guard Travis Washington. Washington was named NJCAA Region VI Tournament MVP averaging 21.3 points per game.
In the championship game, Washington posted 19 points while adding 3 assists. In the deciding defensive stand, Washington stole the ball and passed to Casey Benton who was promptly fouled. Washington wowed the tournament viewers with his ball handling skills, as well as his basketball IQ.
"I thought TJ was outstanding throughout the tournament" said Herkelman. "[He] made tough plays and big baskets. He was a great leader for us."
Freshman Marvin Johnson had a solid tournament debut. The high flying guard averaged 8.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 2.3 steals per game.
Winning the Region VI Tournament for the second year in a row while maintaining a 17 game winning streak sends the Red Ravens into the NJCAA National Tournament with a hot hand and full of momentum.
The NJCAA Tournament will start March 19th in Hutchinson, Kansas. The Selection Monday will be live streamed on Monday March 12th (click the link to watch).