By FRANK CASH
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
The John Wood Community College men's basketball team put itself in a position to knock off the top team in Region 24 Thursday night.
The Trail Blazers just didn't make enough plays down the stretch to do it.
JWCC took its only lead of the game with 4 minutes, 25 seconds left but scored only one more field goal before falling 72-69 to 12th-ranked Rend Lake at the Student Activity Center.
"(Rend Lake) made more tough plays than we did," Trail Blazers sophomore A'Darius Porter said. "They outrebounded us during crucial times and made the big plays. We talked about coming out with a consistent effort in the second half, but it wasn't enough."
JWCC had a chance to tie the game in the final seconds. After Dawson Verhines made a free throw for Rend Lake with 25.1 seconds left, the Trail Blazers maintained possession until calling a timeout with 6.4 seconds.
On the inbounds play, JWCC set up for a 3-pointer. With Brad Hamilton defended heavily, the ball went to Jon White, who missed an off-balanced three at the buzzer.
"The first look was me coming off a flare screen, but we ended up with a down screen for Jon," said Hamilton, who made five 3-pointers and scored a game-high 17 points. "They defended us pretty well. We had to work to get any sort of look at all."
The loss starts a challenging weekend for JWCC, which hosts Danville in its regular-season finale Saturday. Danville should be the No. 2 seed behind Rend Lake (24-3) when the Trail Blazers host the Region 24 Tournament next weekend. JWCC (20-7) figures to be the third seed.
"Playing these games this week is a great way to prepare (for the region)," Trail Blazers coach Brad Hoyt said. "We have to take this game tonight, learn from it and move on. It's good to know what we have to work on and be ready for in case we play (Rend Lake) again in the region tournament."
JWCC's biggest deficit in the second half came when Bronson Verhines converted a three-point play to put Rend Lake ahead 52-42 with 12:39 left in the game. The Trail Blazers answered with an 8-1 run, cutting the lead to 53-50 when Raviel Burton came off the bench to score two of his 14 points with just under nine minutes left.
Burton's two free throws with 4:25 left gave JWCC its only lead at 63-61.
Bronson Verhines scored on a backdoor pass from Jeril Taylor on the Warriors' next possession. The Trail Blazers didn't score again from the field until Hamilton's 3-pointer from the right wing cut Rend Lake's lead to 71-69 with 31 seconds left.
"There were some situations late in the game, actually throughout the game that we have to learn from," said Porter, who finished with 11 points and nine rebounds. "It would have been nice to win this game, but it's not the most important one we'll play."