By MATT SCHUCKMAN
Herald-Whig Sports Editor
Region 24 Tournament
At John Wood Community College
Student Activity Center
Friday, March 8
No. 4 Illinois Central vs. No. 5 Lincoln, 2 p.m.
No. 2 Danville vs. No. 7 Lincoln Land, 4 p.m.
No. 3 John Wood vs. No. 6 Parkland, 6 p.m.
Saturday, March 9
No. 1 Rend Lake vs. Illinois Central/Lincoln winner, 1 p.m.
Danville/Lincoln Land winner vs. John Wood/Parkland winner, 3 p.m.
Sunday, March 10
Semifinal winners, 2 p.m.
No. 1 Rend Lake (22-3)
The Warriors were ranked 12th in the final regular-season NJCAA Division II national poll and come into the tournament riding an eight-game winning streak and having won 16 of their last 17 games. Rend Lake is the highest scoring team in the region, averaging 80.1 points per game. The Warriors are led by freshman swingman Cortez Macklin, who averages 13.7 points per game. He is the only Warrior in double figures. Bronson Verhines, a 6-foot-7 sophomore, leads the Warriors in rebounding, pulling down 8.1 boards per game. The Warriors won the Great Rivers Athletic Conference, which is comprised mostly on NJCAA Division I schools. Rend Lake is the only D-II school in the league.
No. 2 Danville (27-3)
The Jaguars have climbed to No. 2 in the NJCAA Division II poll, thanks in large part to a 16-game winning streak. Danville has not lost since Dec. 15, and the 27 victories are the most in school history. The Jaguars also are the first time to go undefeated in MidWest Athletic Conference history. Danville finished eighth at last year's national tournament. Balance is a big thing for a team averaging 76.2 points. Sophomore guard Derek Shouse averages 13.2 points per game, while sophomore guard Chris Whitehead averages 12.7 points and 4.7 assists per game. Ronnie White, a 6-foot-9 freshman, and Mike Ryce, a 6-5 sophomore, average 8.7 and 7.2 rebounds per game, respectively.
No. 3 John Wood (20-9)
The Trail Blazers reached the 20-victory plateau for the third straight year and the eighth time in program history. The 42 combined victories the last two seasons is the second-best two-year stretch, topped only by the 56 victories from 1995-97. John Wood spent time in the national poll this season, although the Trail Blazers suffered back-to-back losses Rend Lake and Danville to close the regular season. Brad Hamilton, the sophomore guard from Pittsfield, leads JWCC in scoring at 12.6 points per game, while sophomore forward A'Darius Porter averages 10.4 points and a team-leading 7.2 rebounds per game. James Lane is pulling down 7.1 boards per game.
No. 4 Illinois Central (16-14)
The Cougars won their final two games of the regular season and have been known to get hot. They opened the 2013 portion of their schedule with six straight victories. Sophomore guard Sam Feehan leads ICC in scoring at 13.4 points per game and ranks in the top 10 nationally in 3-pointers made. As a team, the Cougars shoot 37 percent from 3-point range, although they shoot just 41.9 percent from the field overall. ICC coach Tony Wysinger played at the University of Illinois from 1983-87 and shared a backcourt his junior season with Quincy High School legend Bruce Douglas.
No. 5 Lincoln (17-13)
The Lynx have been oh-so-close down the stretch. Lincoln lost its final four games of the regular season, although two were one-possession games. Freshman guard Aaron Simpson leads the region in scoring at 20 points per game, and he averages 3.3 assists as well. Simpson has scored in double figures in 28 of 30 games and has scored at least 30 points four times. Jovaughn Gaines, a 6-foot-5 freshman, does a little of everything. He averages 13.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists -- all rank second on the team, Lincoln goes hard to glass, averaging a little more than 16 offensive rebounds per game. The Lynx are coached by former JWCC player and assistant coach Pat Lepper.
No. 6 Parkland (18-11)
John Wood won't forget what sophomore swingman Dominique Walls is capable of doing offensively. He scored a season-high 24 points against the Trail Blazers on Feb. 16. Walls averages 13.4 points and eight rebounds per game. The Cobras have won three of their last five games and are capable of rattling off a string of victories. Parkland beat three NJCAA Division I teams in winning the Lake Land Classic to open the season. The Cobras are one of only two teams in the region to average less than 70 points per game. Parkland last went to the national tournament in 2011.
No. 7 Lincoln Land (15-15)
The Loggers are the best defensive team in the region, allowing just 40.6 points per game. They average only 62 points per game themselves and don't have a single player averaging in double figures. Freshman guard Marcus Graham leads Lincoln Land at 9.9 points per game, while sophomore forward Jeremy Wohltman averages 9.3 points. Wohltman also pulls down 4.3 rebounds per game. Galesburg product Garrett Williams, a freshman guard, is dishing out 2.6 assists per game. Lincoln Land has played in five overtime games this season, losing in OT last weekend to ICC.
-- Matt Schuckman