Coffeyville wins national championship for first time since 1962

Coffeyville wins their first national championship since 1962.

Billy Watson
The Hutchinson News
Coffeyville players hold up the championship trophy after defeating Cowley 108-99 in the NJCAA Men's DI National Basketball Championship Saturday at the Sports Arena.

HUTCHINSON – Cowley came storming back again, but the Coffeyville Red Ravens held them off.

Off the Cowley last-second heave, Coffeyville's Larry White raced upcourt and threw down the game-sealing jam with two seconds left. Coffeyville head coach Jay Herkelman lifted his arms up as the bench wrapped him in their celebration huddle as the Red Ravens beat the Cowley Tigers 108-99 in the 2021 NJCAA Div. 1 men's national championship at the Sports Arena Saturday night.

Coffeyville wins its first national championship since 1962.

"This is just so awesome," Herkelman said. "Been in Coffeyville for 26 years and doing it. We brought a lot of good teams over here and haven't got it done. 

"It's just such an awesome feeling to be able to finally get this accomplished."

Coffeyville's head basketball coach Jay Herkelman celebrates as he cuts down the net after his team won the 2021 Men's DI Basketball Championship 108-99 against Cowley Saturday night.

Blaise Keita and Love Bettis were named to the all-tournament team, and Tylor Perry was tabbed the tournament's most valuable player.

The Nebraska-commit Keita scored the game-high and new career-high 27 points and grabbed nine rebounds.

"He was just a beast down there," Herkelman said. "I talked to him before the game about eating up every rebound that came around him, and he was doing that. He was scoring down there, dunking it and playing aggressive. Just really proud of him, and I just know he's just going to keep getting better and better. So, we got a bright future ahead of us."

Bettis scored 12 points and hit a pair of free throws to put the game out of reach. Perry had 18 on five of 12 shooting and six of nine from the free-throw line. Bostyn Holt notched a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds.

The Red Ravens had seven players score in double figures.

Cowley's Dalen Ridgnal and Mikel Henderson were also named to the all-tournament team. Henderson finished with the team-high 21 points while Ridgnal added 17 points and seven rebounds.

Coffeyville got off to a thrilling start and just seemed to not miss. Perry was electric in the first half and had some tough finishes at the rim. Leading 60-40 at the half and by 23 at one point, Cowley turned it on and started their comeback.

With 1:33 left in regulation, Cowley's Kobe Campbell nailed a tough hanging-in-the-air layup to make it a one-possession game, 100-97. Herkelman said they could not get stops. In the timeouts, he said he told his guys to get some stops and rebound the ball, especially down the stretch. Cowley had made a comeback down more than 20 to the top seed Mineral Area.

"It was a long ways from over," Herkelman said. "Even with six minutes to go, they knew it was a long ways from over, and obviously it was."

More:Scores from the NJCAA DI Men's National Basketball Tournament in Hutchinson

Free throws have saved the Red Ravens down the stretch. After three straight offensive foul calls – two on Cowley and one of Coffeyville, Bettis executed two perfect free throws with 12 seconds to go, slipping the game back up to a two-possession lead. 

The Coffeyville Red Ravens celebrate their national title following their win over the Cowley Tigers in the 2021 NJCAA Div. I men's national championship at the Sports Arena Saturday night.

"Love is our best percentage free-throw shooter," Herkelman said. "Tylor, last year, was our best, and yeah, I got all the confidence in the world in him at the line. We wanted the ball in Love's hands there at the end because he's proven he doesn't mind that big moment. He made those big free throws for us to give us a little cushion."

A lot of players will be coming back, including a full-level potential-filled Keita. Herkelman said this national title win will make them ravenous for next year. For now, this was Coffeyville's year.

"It makes you hungry to try and do it again," Herkelman said. "A lot of coaches in the JUCO level that have won it, they had been giving me words of encouragement the last couple of days. 'It's your time. Get it done.' So, I really appreaciate that. It's just such an awesome feeling."