Niagara Gazette — SANBORN — Both Niagara Community’s men’s and women’s basketball teams opened their seasons with six road victories. Finally at home Thursday night, their hot starts didn’t fizzle.
The women’s team began the evening with a 90-60 victory and the men closed the night with a 93-82 win, both over Pitt-Titusville. Kristine Ripson led all scorers in the first game with 26 points and Eli Jones had 23 for the men.
The men’s team began its home opener with an 11-2 run before the Panthers pulled the game within four a few minutes later. The Thunderwolves led through the chippy — 29 personal fouls – first half, but the Panthers closed the gap to one with about six minutes remaining before halftime.
NCCC gained momentum to close the half and finished the opening 20 minutes with a 49-36 lead.
EJ Sandoval dominated inside the paint throughout with 18 points and 13 rebounds, including 16 points and eight boards at halftime. Sandoval shot a perfect 12 of 12 at the line.
“Coach always talks about position in practice, so I just wanted to out there and produce the position that would lead to an easy basket,” Sandoval said.
The NCCC defense held Pitt-Titusville to just 28.6 percent shooting in the first half, compared to the Thunderwolves’ 45.9 percent. The Thunderwolves shot 44 percent from the field overall, as opposed to the Panthers’ 38.7 percent.
"As long as we play tougher than any team we play, we can’t be beat,” Sandoval said.
Jones closed the game at the line for the Thunderwolves, going 7 of 11 total from the charity stripe.
The women’s team came out of the locker room strong after a tight first half. It began the second with a 17-7 run in the opening nine minutes and held a lead of over 20 points for the majority of the half.
“We knew we had to start playing team defense,” said head coach Nate Beutel. “We didn’t play a lick of it in the first half.”