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Highlanders make history in Hutch

The McLennan Highlanders defeated the Marion Military Institute Tigers 78-70 tonight in the opening round of the NJCAA Division I National Championship in Hutchinson, Kansas.

The Highlanders opened on a 4-0 run and never trailed in the game. The game was tied at eight with 15:46 remaining in the first half. McLennan used an 11-0 run over the next three minutes to take the 19-8 lead. The Highlanders extended the lead to 13, the largest lead of the game, at 30-17 with five minutes to play in the first half. Marion Military rallied to trim the lead to eight at the break, 36-28.

The Tigers used a 4-0 run to start the second half. Marion Military trailed by three, 57-54, with 11 minutes to play. The Highlanders began to pull away, leading by as many as 11, 73-62 with 3:29 to go. The Tigers cut the lead to seven several times late in the game but the Highlanders went 5-7 from the free throw line in the final 1:30 to seal the win.

Aundre Jackson led the Highlanders with 20 points. Shannon Bogues and Jerami Grace added 19 and 17, respectively. Fred Jackson scored 11. 

"We have a great group of kids. Aundre really came through for us tonight. He has been a great leader for us and we are really excited for our program, our community and our college," head coach Kevin Gill said. "Not only is he a great scorer but he is our mismatch. He is our Charles Barkley. He does the little things behind the scenes that a lot of people don't see. He is second in the nation in field goal percentage with 68%."

"These guys are good players but they are better people. It's a family atmosphere and we spend a lot of time together. I'm teaching them how to be good men, not just basketball players," Gill said.

"They don't realize how special they are. Our school has been in existence for 50 years and have made four trips to the national tournament and we were 0-6. They won the first game at Hutch for our community and our college. They've done something really special," Gill said.

McLennan will face defending national champion and second-seeded Northwest Florida State at  noon Wednesday.

McLennan 78, Marion Military 70
Marion Military: Chase Garvin 1 1-4 3; Quamauri Hardy 1 0-0 2; Christian Blanchard 10 6-8 30; Neiman Dunams 3 2-2 8; Dotson Griffin 2 0-2 4; Ronnie Baylark 5 1-2 12; Charles Tripp 5 1-2 11; Totals: 27 9-18 70.

McLennan: Ben Nakwaasah 1 3-3 5; Jerami Grace 6 1-2 17; Shannon Bogues 7 4-5 19; Aundre Jackson 8 4-6 20; Zach Charles 2 2-2 6; Fred Jackson 5 1-2 11; Totals: 29 15-21 78.

3-pointers: Marion Military 7 (Bradford 4, Dunams 2, Baylark 1), McLennan 5 (Grace 4, Bogues 1); Total fouls: Marion Military 21 McLennan 16; Fouled out: Marion Military (Tripp); Halftime score: McLennan 36, Marion Military 28; Record: McLennan 28-5. 

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