Saturday night it was a display of high-flying dunking. Monday it was the Pronghorns’ 3-point shooting and defense that boosted them to a huge win.
The Gillette College men’s basketball team hit seven long range shots in the first 9 minutes of the game to open up a big lead and had Miles Community College on the ropes at halftime, 52-25. The second half was more of the same, as the Pronghorns outscored the Pioneers 16-4 in the first 4minutes on the way to a 107-58 victory.
It was a statement win for Gillette, because Miles City had already beaten a nationally ranked Casper College team and I-90 rival Sheridan College this season. Both coach Shawn Neary and assistant coach Estevan Sandoval admitted they weren’t expecting to win by that wide of a margin.
“I feel like that was our best complete game for sure,” Neary said. “Defensively, we were just really good. … It was just a good defensive effort tonight, a team effort.”
Gillett College’s defense shut down a Miles City team that was red hot coming into the contest. The Pioneers were ranked sixth in the country in 3-pointers made at 13 per game and 12th in 3-point percentage, but were held to just 6-28 (21.4%) from deep and 31% from the field.
The goal going in was to “blow them out from the start,” said transfer sophomore Jayden Coke, who led the team with 26 points off the bench. That attitude showed from the opening tip.
The Pronghorn lead was already pushing 20 points midway through the first half at 33-14 thanks to the hot long-range shooting. Sophomore Mason Archambault came out of the gates on fire and poured in 11 points in the first 5 minutes, including three triples.
Transfer sophomore Tarig Eisa hit Gillette’s fourth trey to make it 23-8 with 12:28 remaining before freshman Teonta McKeithen started to heat up. He nailed two catch-and-shoot 3-pointer’s in a 2-minute span, making it 33-14 with 11:05 left, and he had more in store for Miles City.
It was McKeithen’s third straight game heating up from deep and Neary thinks he has found his confidence after Monday’s 22-point performance. The freshman had 14 3-pointers during the four-day stretch and averaged more than 19 points in just over 13 minutes per game.
The Pronghorns couldn’t quite keep up the blistering pace for the remainder of the first half, but still managed to keep the Pioneers at bay.
Freshman Isaac Mushila, redshirt freshman Anthony Felisma and sophomore Javen Gumber all scored in the next 7 minutes to maintain a comfortable lead at 43-25. Then Gillette College went on a 9-0 run to finish the half.
McKeithen jump-started the run with his third triple of the half with 3:25 left before Gumber and Coke hit a pair of free throws each. Then McKeithen gave the team and the Pronghorn Center a jolt of energy in the final seconds of the half.
He jumped a passing lane to steal the ball near mid-court, glanced up at the clock, and then threw down a dunk with a second left to bring the lead to 52-25. The Pronghorns ran off the court whooping and yelling after the dominant first-half performance.
“The first half we were just really good defensively. We knew we had to guard,” Neary said. “I told the guys before the game that to me, this is the best offensive team we played all year, so step up and see what you can do.”
Gillette College’s start to the second half was more of the same. Eisa scored on the first possession, then sophomore Bradley Akhile and freshman Gary Solomon hit the bottom of the net from 3-point range to make it 60-27 in the first 75 seconds.
The Pioneers answered Solomon’s triple with a bucket, only to have the Pronghorns rattle off 12 straight points to turn the game into a full-fledged blowout at 72-29 with 12:15 left.
Mushila nailed a corner trey and scored on a drive, Archambault converted an and-1 play and Coke scored on back-to-back possessions during that stretch.
Coke and McKeithen shouldered the scoring responsibilities for the final 12 minutes. McKeithen scored eight Gillette points in a row, all in answer to Miles City buckets, to make it 82-38 with 8:20 remaining.
Then Coke took over for the final 6 minutes. He was playing with a lot of aggression and scored 16 of his 26 points in that stretch to push the Pronghorns to the 107-58 win.
“I’ve been playing a little too weak for the past couple games, so I told myself to turn it on,” Coke said. “We played real complete — defense, offense, shared the ball, everyone contributed — so yeah, that was probably one of our best games.”
If there’s one thing that Neary would like his team to take away from the win, it would be the defensive effort, he said. When the Pronghorns are fully committed on defense like they were Monday, the offense finds another gear.
Neary wanted his team to start playing with more pace coming into the weekend and now Gillette College has scored more than 100 points three games in a row.
Archambault had 14 points, Mushila 13 points and 11 rebounds, and Eisa had 10 to go with Coke (26) and McKeithen’s 48 combined points. The Pronghorns ended up shooting 47% (15-32) from beyond the arc and just over 50% from the field.
Gillette College has two games in Bismarck, North Dakota, before the Christmas break. It will take on United Tribes Tech at 6:30 Friday night and Bismarck State at 1 p.m. Saturday. The Pronghorns are now 11-1, with its lone loss coming to Dawson Community College on Nov. 23.