Jets to face South Plains in first round of NJCAA National Tournament
The South Georgia Technical College Jets and Lady Jets basketball teams both qualified for the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division I basketball tournaments for the second time in the 20-year history of the Jets basketball program. This is the first time the Jets have qualified since 2013 – 2014 and only the third time in the history of the men’s program.
The 19th seeded Jets are headed to the historic Hutchinson Sports Arena in Hutchinson, KS, March 14th – 19th. This is the 75th anniversary for the men’s basketball tournament. The Jets, representing Region XVII and the Southeast District, will open up against South Plains of Texas, the 14th seed, on Tuesday, March 15th at 10 a.m. CT. The winner of that game will take on the 3rd seed Kilgore College on Wednesday, March 16th at 6 p.m. All games will be livestreamed (for a fee) here: https://www.njcaa.org/network/landing/index.
“It is an amazing feeling to earn a berth to the national tournament, no matter how many years you have been coaching,” said SGTC Jets head basketball coach Chris Ballauer. “This is extremely hard to do but to do it in what is considered my first season as the head coach is special. And to be able to earn the nomination with this group of guys makes it even better.”
Coach Ballauer is excited to play South Plains. “Coach Green is a Hall of Famer and has built a national power at South Plains. They are a really good team that has size inside and good guard play. I think we match-up with them pretty good based on our guards and inside presence.”
South Plains College of Levelland, Texas is a two-year college with nearly 9,000 students, and earned a right to the NJCAA Division I men’s National Tournament by knocking off the eight-ranked Odessa College 87 – 83 to capture the Region V title. South Plains earned their way into the region title game after defeating Temple and New Mexica Military Institute in the first two rounds, setting up a rubber match with the Odessa Wranglers, who topped South Plains twice during conference play. They are 20 – 11 on the season.
The South Plains Texans overcame a 10-point deficit to clip Odessa in the final minutes of the tournament finals. Kieves Turner netted a game-high 31 points connecting on eight of 13 shots from the floor and was a perfect 13 of 13 from the free throw line. Jade Harris chipped in 12 points over 35 minutes, finishing 2 of 9 from the floor and was six of eight from the charity stripe. Two other South Plains players were in double-figures in that championship game. Malek Abdelgoward and Savion Gallion both had 11 points.
South Plains is led by head coach Steve Green, who is in his 22nd season leading the Texan basketball team where he has compiled a record of 546 wins and 150 losses. The three-time NJCAA Men’s Basketball National Coach of the Year was inducted into the NJCAA Men’s Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame on March 16, 2015. He led the Texans back into the NJCAA Men’s national tournament for the 11th time during the 2020 – 2021 season, advancing to the Elite Eight. South Plains defeated GCAA’s South Georgia State 81 – 80 last season at the national tournament in the second round. Green’s accomplishments at South Plains includes eight conference titles, seven regional championships, 11 national tournament appearances, and three national titles.
In contrast, the South Georgia Technical College Jets are led by first-year head coach Chris Ballauer. While he has been coaching for a number of years, this is his first year with the official head coach title. He was the interim head coach of the Jets in the 2020 – 2021 shortened Covid season and lead the team to a 14 – 10 overall record. His team this season was ranked nationally early in the season but dropped out. The team did receive votes to be nationally ranked in the last two polls. South Plains is also currently unranked and did not receive votes to be included in the ranking.
Even though this is his first year with the head coach title, Ballauer is entering his ninth season at South Georgia Technical College. He joined the coaching staff as an assistant coach for the Lady Jets in 2013, helping them begin their GCAA conference championship win streak. The Lady Jets advanced to the national tournament in his first season as an assistant coach. In 2014, Ballauer moved to the men’s side and has been an integral part of that program ever since. He served under two men’s head coaches before earning the men’s head coach title at SGTC.
The South Georgia Technical College Jets and Ballauer, 22 – 11 overall, went into the Georgia Collegiate Athletic Association (GCAA) tournament as the second place seed behind the host Georgia Highlands Chargers (21 – 12). The Jets lost their last regular season game to East Georgia on February 26th, 86 – 81. But in the GCAA tournament, the Jets rallied and defeated Southern Crescent Tech in the quarterfinals, 89 – 76, to advance to the semifinals where they took a 78 – 70 win over South Georgia State College.
Those two wins set up a rematch with Georgia Highlands in the finals on the Chargers home court. The Jets defeated Georgia Highlands 102 – 87 and 106 – 88 in overtime in the regular season. However, those two games along with a loss to East Georgia and Albany Tech were their only conference losses. The Jets lost to Southern Crescent, Albany Tech, Central Georgia Tech, South Georgia State and East Georgia during the regular season. Four of the five losses were on the road.
South Plains is averaging 74.3 points per game, hits 42.9% of their shots from the field and is shooting 32.4% from the three-point line. They hit 70.5% of their free throws and average 37.3 points per game as well as 13.1 assists.
South Georgia Tech is averaging 86.2 points per game, hits 47.4% of their field goals and 40% of their three-point attempts. They shoot 72.6% from the foul line, average 40.5 rebound and 16.3 assists.
“Other than our late game free throw shooting against Georgia Highlands in the GCAA Tournament finals Saturday, I am not sure we have any challenges going into the national tournament,” said Ballauer. “I think our strength is our experience and the stage not being too big for the team. But right now, we have to prepare and then wait and see.” All games will be livestreamed (for a fee) here: https://www.njcaa.org/network/landing/index.