One year later, redemption came for the Coffeyville Community College men's basketball team.
On the shoulders of a sophomore class that had fallen short in last year's Region VI title game, the Red Ravens are back in the NJCAA tournament for the sixth time under coach Jay Herkelman thanks to a 73-69 win over Seward County on Monday night in the Region VI final at Koch Arena.
Herkelman, Coffeyville's coach since 1995, didn't win his first Region VI title until 2002.
"I want all of my teams to get to experience going to the national tournament," Herkelman said. "But this group was special. This group is one that I grew really attached to, just because of how hard they work and how great their focus has been."
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Coffeyville battled to a 25-24 halftime lead after a sluggish start for both teams, and fell flat to begin the second half, trailing 47-37 with just over 10 minutes to play after an 11-0 run by the Saints.
Back-to-back three-pointers by Dawon Cummings got the Red Ravens back to within two points at 47-45 and Coffeyville took the lead back at 56-53 on a three-point play by Marquis Cuyler with four minutes left.
"As a team we've not worried about personal accolades or anything like that all year long," said Coffeyville's Kevin Broussard, the Region VI Tournament MVP. "We've always thought that if we stuck together, we'd come out on top."
Tied 59-59 with 1:30 left, Neil Watson hit the second of back-to-back three-pointers to give the Red Ravens a 62-59 lead.
"We've had the green light all year, not just to shoot but to lead the team," Watson said. "Coach Herkelman instills that confidence in us and we just run with it."
Watson led Coffeyville with 15 points and seven assists. Broussard and Eriq Harris added 13 points each.
Watson also hit two free throws with six seconds left and the Red Ravens leading 71-69.
The Saints and coach Bryan Zollinger, with Jayhawk West MVP Jeremy Jones (17 points) , were trying for their second Region VI title in four years.
"I felt like I had a team that overachieved all year, that had to fight for respect at every turn," Zollinger said. "Tonight maybe we had some guys trying to maybe do too much, but not out of any sort of malicious, look-at-me attitude but because they wanted us to win so bad."
The NJCAA tournament begins March 15 at the Sports Arena in Hutchinson.
"There's just something about coming to Wichita where we get here and figure out how to make it work," Herkelman said. "We've found a philosophy that works and when it comes time for Region VI we just do what we do."
COFFEYVILLE (30-4): Wilson 3-15 4-6 12, Broussard 4-12 2-2 13, Cuyler 4-7 3-3 11, Watson 4-9 4-4 15, Crockett 0-0 0-0 0, Cummings 3-4 0-0 9, Cordray 0-1 0-0 0, Harris 6-12 1-2 13, Henshall 0-2 0-0 0, Bowlin 0-1 0-0 0, Stevens 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 24-64 14-17 73.
SEWARD (27-7): Patterson 1-4 4-6 6, Nolen 4-12 4-4 12, Boardingham 6-9 5-7 17, Mazyck 0-2 0-0 0, Jones 6-20 2-2 17, Guthrie 2-7 3-4 7, Hollinger 3-4 0-0 6, Hawkins 2-4 0-0 4. Totals 24-62 18-23 69.
Halftime-Coffeyville 25-24. 3-point shooting-Coffeyville 11-30 (Cummings 3-4, Watson 3-4, Broussard 3-8, Wilson 2-11, Harris 0-2, Cordray 0-1); Seward 3-13 (Jones 3-8, Patterson 0-2, Nolen 0-1, Mazyck 0-1, Guthrie 0-1). Rebounds-Coffeyville 37 (Wilson 9); Seward 46 (Nolen 12). Assists-Coffeyville 18 (Watson 7); Seward 13 (Jones 4). Fouls-Seward 22, Coffeyville 20.