The Bruins started off the season strong, winning 12 of their first 13 games. SLCC was ranked as high as 13th in the NJCAA national poll.
SLCC finished second in Scenic West Athletic Conference (SWAC) standings with an 11-4 record, behind arch-rival College of Southern Idaho (CSI). Two of their four SWAC losses were to the Golden Eagles earlier in the season. The Bruins were able to beat CSI when it mattered most, claiming their second consecutive Region 18 Championship with a 62-49 road win.
The Bruins entered the NJCAA Nationals on a high note, claiming an automatic berth in the tournament after defeating Mesa Community College in the District I Playoff game.
NJCAA Tournament review
The No. 7 seed Bruins lost to No. 10 seed Columbia State Community College (CSCC) 81-78 in a Sweet 16 game on Wednesday, March 19 in Hutchinson, KS.
In a game filled with streaks, the Bruins led by as much as 14 points before the Chargers rallied back. SLCC held a 40-33 lead at halftime. CSCC continued their comeback in the second half, and the teams would exchange the lead until CSCC’s Arturs Bremmers made a tiebreaking 3-point shot at the end of regulation to give the Chargers the upset victory.
Jaden Jackson and Neal Monson led the team in scoring with 18 points apiece. De’Sean Parsons added 13 points and Gary Payton II contributed 8 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists.
SLCC finishes the season with a 27-7 record.
Neal Monson led the team in total points and rebounds this season, while averaging 18.8 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. The freshman forward was a force in the post this season and shot 61.8% from the field. He scored a career-high 33 points on 9-13 shooting and 10-14 from the free-throw line in a gritty win over North Idaho College (NIC) on Jan. 23.
Gary Payton II averaged 14.1 points and 7.9 rebounds per game and also led the team in assists (114) and steals (58). He logged a career-high 41 points in a blowout victory over the Salt Lake Alumni squad on Dec. 6. Payton II will continue his career at Oregon State University (OSU) next season. His father, NBA Hall of Famer Gary “The Glove” Payton, also played at OSU from 1987-1990, earning consensus All-American and Sports Illustrated‘s Pac-10 Player of the Year honors in his senior season.
Jaden Jackson was incredible from the 3-point line, leading the team with 98 completions and averaging 47.4% for the season. Jackson logged a career-high 33 points while shooting 8-9 from beyond the arc in a blowout win over Colorado Northwestern Community College (CNCC) on Feb. 22.
Just four active players on this year’s roster are sophomores: Payton II, Jackson, guard Collin Woods and forward Kurtis Toolson. The current freshmen on the team, including Monson, Parsons and guard Zerrion Payton, played quality minutes throughout the season and will build on that experience in 2014-15. Head Coach Todd Phillips and the rest of the coaching staff will have to reload the roster with a few more talented freshmen to make another run at Hutch next season.