By Mike Meiler firstname.lastname@example.org
Niagara Gazette — SANBORN — The Niagara County Community College men's and women's basketball teams suffered their second sweep of the season Thursday night.
For the second time, the pair of defeats came at the hands of the Monroe Community College Tribunes.
MCC handed the NCCC teams their first sweep Jan. 25 in Rochester and did it again Thursday, taking advantage of some rust on the part of the Thunderwolves to earn a pair of wins.
The NCCC men struggled offensively in a 69-62 loss.
The Thunderwolves (21-4) entered the game ranked No. 7 in this week's National Junior College Athletic Association Division II poll after beating rival Erie Community College on Feb. 4.
The two teams played a physical game with the right to host the NJCAA Region III tournament on the line. NCCC coach Bill Beilein said his players could've handled the physicality better.
"We had a hard time handling some adversity today," Beilein said. "There was a lot of contact in today's game and I don't think we handled a lot of that contact well. There's enjoying the battle of being in a tight game, but we got a little emotional and that can't happen."
The Tribunes held a small lead for the majority of the game before the Thunderwolves tied the game when Eli Jones completed an and-one with two minutes left.
NCCC was held scoreless from there.
"We kept making stops, we just couldn't sustain it in that last minute," Beilein said.
Jones finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Sheldon Zablotny added 16 points, three rebounds and two assists, while Gjaimier Stanford had 15 points, three boards and two helpers.
Monroe (20-5), ranked No. 13 in the D-2 poll, extended its winning streak to 13 games and clinched first place in Region III. With that comes the right to host the regional tournament. NCCC is in second.
The NCCC women fell victim to a disastrous first half in a 64-50 loss, their second this season to MCC (22-3).
The game was expected to be close, with each team just outside the top-20 poll in its respective division (Monroe is NJCAA Division I, while NCCC is Division II). Early on it was the opposite.
The Thunderwolves (22-3) trailed 35-17 after the first half and by 21 early in the second. Head coach Nate Beutel attributed the sloppy start to the extended break between games; like the men, the NCCC women last played Feb. 4.
"We looked like a team that hadn't played in nine days," Beutel said. "At this point in the season, to have a nine-day layoff and come back and play the toughest team on your schedule, it's a lot to ask."
NCCC found itself in the second half and cut the Monroe lead to eight with a 10-0 run with 12 minutes remaining. When it appeared as if the Thunderwolves were ready to make it a game, they lost three starters — Kristine Ripson, Jaclyn Welch and Alba Perez — to disqualification via fouls.
"It was just one of those games where you couldn't catch a break," Beutel said. "Who knows if we're going to come back, but we were on a real good run."
Jesse DeWaters (Royalton-Hartland) led NCCC with 15 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Ripson (Lewiston-Porter) had 14 points, nine rebounds and two blocks, while Welch finished with 12 poitns. Dionne Coe led MCC with 24 points.
The NCCC women have three games remaining. If they win out, they'll host the NJCAA Region III Final Four.
Both NCCC teams next play Saturday at Mercyhurst North East. The women are scheduled to tip at 1 p.m. with the men following at 3 p.m.
Follow Niagara Gazette sports reporter Mike Meiler on Twitter @mikemeiler for updates on your local teams.