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In the long history of the Howard College-New Mexico Military Institute series, Howard has frequently won but just as frequently struggled against the Broncos.
Thursday night's latest edition of the rivalry was no exception. The Hawks eventually won, 72-64, but had to hold on for dear life late to secure the victory, which improved their record to 13-3 overall and 2-0 in Western Junior College Athletic Conference play.
Howard held double-digit leads in both halves, but watched the Broncos (7-9, 0-2) rally to make things close each time.
The close result left Howard Coach Mark Adams less than pleased.
â€śI was very disappointed with our play on defense,â€ť he said. â€śWe've got to get better quickly. We can't make the mistakes we made and expect to beat good teams down the road.â€ť
A bit of good news for the Hawks was the return to the lineup of guard Jacob Thomas. The 6-foot-4 freshman from Columbia Heights, Minn., who has missed extended time this season with a foot injury, appeared in midseason form Thursday night, leading all scorers with 24 points, including 15 on three-point shots.
â€śIt looks like he's starting to get his confidence back,â€ť Adams said of Thomas. â€śHe was definitely a bright spot for us.â€ť
Also scoring in double figures for Howard was sophomore swing man Shavon Coleman, who had 12 points. Juwan Newman and D'Marnier Cunningham led NMMI with 16 and 15 points, respectively.
The Hawks twice appeared to take control of the game, once in each half, and it was defense that spurred the rallies.
The first charge came midway through the first half when, with the game tied at 17-all, the Hawks went on a five-minute run that saw their lead expand to nine points, with 5:51 left in the half.
But Howard went cold from the field after that, scoring only one more field goal before intermission, and the Broncos relied on a flurry of three-pointers â€” two from Andrew Brewster â€” to take a 37-36 lead into intermission.
The game followed a similar script in the second half â€” Howard raced out to a seemingly comfortable lead, only to watch NMMI rally.
The Hawks regained the lead for good on a Coleman jumper with 18:14 left and expanded that lead to as much as 15 points midway through the half.
However, trailing 62-48 with 9:14 remaining, the Broncos rattled off 10 unanswered points to cut Howard's lead to four points with four minutes left.
That was as close as NMMI got, however. Thomas and Rico Richardson sank crucial baskets on consecutive possessions to push the Hawks' lead back to eight points, and Howard was able to maintain that advantage until game's end.
The Hawks return to action Monday when they travel to Midland for a 7:45 p.m. game with the Chaps.
NMMI (64) â€” Cunningham 6 1-1 14; Barnes 3 0-0 8; Newman 4 8-10 16; Fields 2 0-0 4; Williams 4 0-0 9; Peralta 2 0-0 4; Gaskins 3 1-2 8; totals 24 10-13 64.
HOWARD (72) â€” Dixon 3 0-0 7; Cooper 1 0-0 2; Richardson 4 0-0 9; Thomas 9 2-2 24; Codfrey 3 1-4 7; Coleman 4 3-4 12; McGee 3 2-2 8; totals 27 3-4 72.
Halftime â€” NMMI 37, Howard 36; Three-pointers â€” NMMI (Cunningham, Barnes 2, Williams, Gaskins 2), Howard (Dixon, Richardson, Thomas 5); Total fouls â€” NMMI 13, Howard 15; Fouled out â€” none; Technical fouls â€” none.