Hutchinson Chipola (Fla.) College came into the NJCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship as the team to beat.
And that's exactly what Seward County Community College did in the first round Tuesday at Hutchinson Sports Arena, notching a 90-84 overtime win over the No. 2 junior-college team in the nation.
"We wrote in the locker room up on the board before we came, 'Write tomorrow's headline: Seward County shocks Chipola,'" Seward coach Bryan Zollinger said after the game. "Everyone was in total agreement, and they really, really wanted to win this game tonight and believed that they could."
The college from Liberal trailed by four at halftime, but got 27 of its 38 second half points from the free throw line and three-point range - 19-for-23 at the line, three-of-seven beyond the arc.
"I thought they set the tempo of the game at their pace and at their liking," Chipola coach Greg Heiar said. "I thought they just played better. But you've got to give our guys a heck of a lot of credit to be down and not lose it at the end of the second half as Clevin Hannah hit a big three to put it into overtime. Then they go perfect from the field (six-for-six), and it was just their night."
Chipola's Mario Little, the top junior-college player in the nation and Kansas University men's basketball signee, wasn't much of an offensive threat throughout the game, scoring 13 points - two buckets in each half and overtime, making 1-of-2 free throws in OT.
His defense helped keep Chipola (32-2) in the game - except when he had to sit seven minutes of the second half with four fouls.
Seward's Darko Cohadarevic - a 6-foot-9 sophomore forward who has given soft verbal commitment to Texas Tech - forced Heiar's hand. Several times, he had to put Little on the Belgrade, Serbia native.
With Little guarding the fellow future Big 12 Conference player, Cohadarevic was just 1-for-5 with two points and two turnovers. When Cohadarevic didn't have Little in his face, he was 5-of-10 from the field - 3-for-6 behind the arc - and ended with 22 total points.
Cohadarevic still wasn't Seward's leading scorer. That was freshman point guard Reggie Chamberlain, the Jayhawk Conference freshman of the year out of Raytown (Mo.) High School.
Chamberlain was 5-for-10 from the field, 2-of-5 from three-point land and 18-for-21 from the free throw line to tally 30 points.
The best the Indians can do now is a seventh-place finish through the consolation bracket. They will return to action at noon Thursday against Shelton State (Ala.) Community College, which lost to Northeastern Oklahoma A&M; 78-65 prior to the Chipola game.
Shelton relied heavily on the three-pointer as well, shooting 9-of-32 from behind the arc versus Northeastern Oklahoma.
"The school record for wins is 33. The school record for losses is three," Heiar said. "So we have a chance to achieve both of those goals."