FREEPORT, ILL. - The Highland Community College men's basketball team was facing a major second half deficit, but with their season in the balance, the Cougars rallied for a come-from-behind 77-75 defeat of Missouri State University-West Plains in the NJCAA District IV Championship Game on Saturday, March 10. The win puts Highland back in the NJCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship, also known as The Tournament, field for the second consecutive year and for the eighth time in program history.
Sophomore point guard and Madison, Wisconsin, native Shareef Smith scored the go-ahead basket with 14.9 seconds remaining, part of nine points scored by Smith in a 17-3 closing run to erase a 12-point deficit with four minutes left in the game. Smith finished with 23 points, while fellow second year Jay'Quan McCloud tallied a game-high 28 points, including 22 in the second half.
The Cougars will travel to Hutchinson, Kansas, where they have earned the 20th seed in the 24-team field. Highland (26-7) will open against #13 South Plains College (TX/24-8) on Monday, March 19 at 6:30 p.m. The winner advances to the Second Round to face #4 Salt Lake Community College (UT/30-3) on Wednesday, March 21 at noon. All games will be played at the Hutchinson Sports Arena.