HUTCHINSON, KAN – Every time Grant Prusator shot a 3-pointer in the second half Tuesday, the Sports Arena crowd anticipated the ball going in.
With each make – and there was plenty as the Highland, Ill., freshman made 8 of 13 in the game – the crowd got a little louder, a little more appreciative of what it was witnessing.
Prusator took note of the crowd’s reaction to his white-hot shooting. And he smiled when asked about it after the game.
All he wished was that he could have made his last 3-point attempt, which likely would have won the game. Instead, Jones County, Miss., nudged by Highland, led by former Indian Hills assistant coach Nathan Courtney, 81-79 in the final NJCAA Division I Men’s Basketball National Tournament first-round game Tuesday.
Prusator finished with 32 points, and in the second half made seven 3-pointers, including five in a row at one point.
“I noticed that in the second half,” Prusator said of the crowd’s appreciation for his shooting. “It was a great environment to play in. It was probably the most fun I’ve had, except for the ending.”
Some of that may have been due to the incoming Indian Hills crowd. The top-ranked Warriors were set to take the floor in the following game against New Mexico Junior College in the first national quarterfinal.
The maroon-clad fans joined the orange and black of Highland as the Huskies nearly gave Courtney, an assistant coach on the 2007 and 2008 IHCC National Tournament teams, a win in his first national tournament game as a head coach.
Less than 20 seconds remained in the game, and Jones County had an 80-79 lead. Highland worked the ball and finally found Prusator. The Highland bench, as well as the crowd, watched in anticipation, but the shot was a bit long.