Mar 7, 2017 - By Scott Akanewich, Sports EditorIrshaad Hunte led Central Wyoming College with 23 points and 10 rebounds in an 85-76 home victory.
Chris Quayle gathered in the ball at half court with nothing but hardwood between him and the basket, which stared longingly back at him just waiting for the former Riverton Wolverine to rise up and stuff the iron full of leather.
Alas, as the crowd held their collective breath with Quayle on final approach to pay dirt, the 6-foot-5 guard pulled the parachute and peeled off toward the corner, as time expired and the game ended, with his Rustlers of Central Wyoming College victorious on the scoreboard by a margin of 85-76 over Miles Community College in an opening-round Region IX North tournament game on Saturday.
Quayle scored 12 points for the Rustlers, one of five Central players in double-figures on the afternoon, but it was Irshaad Hunte who was a dominant force for the Orange-and-Black attack, pouring in 23 points and ripping down 10 rebounds.
Hunte got the Rustlers' party started with the game's first bucket to give head coach Jack Nelson's club an early lead, but Miles responded in kind to knot the proceedings at 2-2.
However, Quayle then hit a shot, followed by a field goal and a pair of free throws by Alihan Demir and Central was on its way, leading by five at 22-17 midway through the first half, after Hunte drained another deuce.
The Pioneers responded with a 6-0 run on a pair of 3-pointers by Uglijesa Portic and Montenia Nelson to take their first lead of the game, at 23-22.
The contest see-sawed more than a teeter-totter on a busy playground for the next seven minutes as the clock wore down on the opening act, until the game was tied at 34-34, with 3:16 remaining in the half after Central's Ronnie Barfield Jr. canned a free throw.
The home side then went on a 9-0 run to end the first 20 minutes, punctuated by a Devon Colley three off an assist from Quayle to provide the Rustlers with a 45-35 lead at the break.
Colley picked up where he left off in the first, hitting the opening bucket of the second stanza, as Central maintained the lead, although Miles dutifully chipped away for several minutes until a pair of Adoum Mbang free throws gave the Pioneers a 55-54 advantage, with 13:53 remaining in regulation.
Nelson called a timeout to settle his troops and the Rustlers came out of the brief respite ready to reestablish their early dominance.
Barfield hit a basket, followed by one apiece from Demir and Marcus Nolan and Central had a lead they wouldn't relinquish this time, as Quayle hit a pair of 3-pointers, along with one by Nolan, down the stretch to secure victory.
Along with Hunte's heroics and Quayle's contributions to the cause, Demir added 17 points and six rebounds, Nick Brannon had 11 points and seven boards, and Nolan dropped in 12 points off the bench.
Central won the battle of the boards, outrebounding the Pioneers 47-32 and also outscored the visitors in a pair of critical categories, with the Rustlers having more second-chance (17-4) and points in the paint (50-38).
Mbang led Miles with 22 points.
Next for Central (21-8) is a second-round matchup against Lamar Community College (24-6) in Gillette on Thursday at 1 p.m.
Other first-round Region IX North games saw No. 1 Gillette College defeat No. 8 Little Big Horn College 117-91, No. 3 Casper College beat No. 6 Western Wyoming Community College 84-49, and No. 4 Sheridan College down No. 5 Northwest College 62-58.
In Region IX South action, No. 1 Laramie County Community College beat McCook Community College 103-85, No. 2 Western Nebraska defeated No. 7 Northeastern Junior College 93-74, No. 3 Lamar got past No. 6 Trinidad State 74-65, and No. 4 Otero Junior College downed North Platte Community College 70-68.
Miles Community College 35 41 -- 76
Central Wyoming College 45 40 -- 85
Miles Community College - Nelson 19, Rauch 6, Little 2, Portic 18, Mbang 22, Ponder 3, Diaby 6.
Central Wyoming College - Colley 7, Quayle 12, Brannon 11, Hunte 23, Demir 17, Nolan 12, Barfield 3, Galante 0.
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