NORFOLK, Neb. – The Northeast Community College men's basketball team came close, but not close enough.
Down by 23 points in the second half, the Hawks came within a point of tying Little Priest Tribal College with a little over a minute to play, but two late free throws sealed the victory for the Warriors, topping the Hawks 91-87 on Monday night at the Cox Activities Center in Norfolk.
Northeast began to fight back in the second half, after going into halftime down by 14 points. Two Caleb Rihanek (Spencer, Neb.) free throws put the Hawks (9-7) within 18 points at the 10:51 mark, sparking life into the Hawks' offense.
With less than 10 minutes to play, Ben Moxness (Scribner, Neb.) accounted for five-straight points after two made free throws and a deep 3-pointer. The Northeast offense went cold until Moxness hit another long-range 3-pointer, followed by five-straight points from Seth Coatta (Minnetonka, Minn.), bringing the Hawks within 13 points with under six minutes to play.
The Hawks came within 10 points after Coatta hit a jumper and Daniel Akuei (Melbourne, Australia) hit a shot off the glass. Rihanek followed suit by putting a 3-point dagger into the Warrior defense to put the Hawks within five.
Closing in on a minute to play, Coatta was fouled and tallied the old fashion three-point play to put the Hawks within a bucket. Seconds later, Moses Byekwaso (London, United Kingdom) grabbed a critical rebound and was fouled, but ended up hitting one free throw to cut the Warriors lead to one.
The Warriors defense made a strong push to keep the Hawks' offense at bay. After a couple missed shots and with only two seconds left in regulation, Little Priest was sent to the line and secured both free throws to seal the win.
Byekwaso led the Hawks with 25 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals. Coatta added 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting from the field. Moxness had 12 points and five boards, while Emmette Page (Brooklyn Park, Minn.) had 10 points and five assists.
The Hawks shot 43 percent from the field, 41 percent from beyond the arc and 84 percent from the charity stripe.
Northeast travels east to battle Indian Hills Community College in a crucial ICCAC matchup at 7 p.m. Saturday in Ottumwa, Iowa.
For all news related to Northeast Community College athletics, visit northeasthawks.com for complete coverage. Fans can also follow the Hawks on Twitter @NortheastHawks for game-day coverage.