Men's College Basketball

Trail Blazers tough enough to reach Region 24 title game

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Mar. 9, 2019 12:01 am Updated: Mar. 10, 2019 10:10 am

EAST PEORIA, Ill. -- The difference may be toughness.

In that regard, Cory Miller Jr. believes the John Wood Community College men's basketball team has an edge.

"I'm confident we're ready to play them based on the schedule Coach (Brad) Hoyt put together for us and how tough our guys are," Miller said after the Trail Blazers advanced to the Region 24 Tournament championship game with Saturday's 85-74 semifinal victory over Rend Lake.

JWCC (18-13) will face sixth-ranked Parkland (24-3) at 2 p.m. Sunday at Illinois Central College's Ramsey Gym. The winner advances to the NJCAA Division II national tournament, which begins March 19 at Mary Miller Gym in Danville.

"It's going to take us playing our game," said Miller, the sophomore guard. "If we play our game, play at our pace, share it and defend, we're going to be just fine and be where we want to be."

It's exactly what the Trail Blazers did Saturday.

After being held scoreless for the game's first three minutes, JWCC found its rhythm to the tune of a 41-point first half in which it shot 50 percent from the field. Couple that with holding Rend Lake to 18.2 percent shooting from 3-point range in the first half and JWCC led by 10 at halftime.

"Rhythm came pretty easy for our guys," Miller said.

Hoyt felt it, too.

"Once we got going offensively, we found what we wanted to find on that end of the floor," Hoyt said. "Luckily it was enough to withstand their late push."

The Warriors made nine 3-pointers in the second half and whittled a 19-point deficit to single digits.

"That's a credit to them for catching us in some switches and making shots with guys relatively close," Hoyt said. "They did a good job of keeping themselves in the game."

However, the Warriors never got closer than seven points as the Trail Blazers relied on Miller and freshman forward Chandler Bevans to finish.

Miller scored 31 points on 10-of-15 shooting from the field and 10-of-12 shooting from the free-throw line, while grabbing 10 rebounds and finishing with four assists and three steals.

"That's a pretty good day at the office," Hoyt said.

Meanwhile, Bevans scored 21 points off the bench and matched Miller with 10 rebounds.

"He can do some things when he gets the ball down low," Hoyt said. "I thought we did a better job at times of getting him the ball."

Bevans and the rest of the bench may have an expanded role against Parkland based on the availability of sophomore guard Eric Easter, who played just 13 minutes Saturday after sustaining a knee injury.

"We don't know what that is and what that looks like yet," Hoyt said. "We'll evaluate it as we go."

Region 24 Tournament

Semifinals

John Wood 85, Rend Lake 74

JOHN WOOD (18-13)

Eric Easter 2-2 0-0 4, Rumbo 1-4 0-0 3, Whiteman 3-12 0-0 7, Jackson 1-4 1-2 3, Cramsey 2-4 2-3 6, Morrison 2-2 0-0 4, Miller 10-15 10-12 31, Bevans 9-17 3-5 21, Bottorff 2-5 0-0 4, Jefferson 0-1 2-2 2. Totals 32-66 18-24 85.

REND LAKE (13-15)

Jones 1-4 2-2 5, Dial 7-14 0-0 19, Moore 1-5 0-0 2, Adjei 12-23 7-7 32, Burton 2-8 0-0 5, Rogers 2-5 0-2 6, Lynch 0-1 0-0 0, Lowe III 0-0 0-0 0, McCarty 0-2 0-0 0, Kambomba 0-1 0-1 0, Luke 2-5 0-0 5. Totals 27-68 9-12 74.

Halftime score--JWCC 41, Rend Lake 31. 3-point field goals--JWCC 3-17 (Whiteman 1-7, Miller 1-5, Rumbo 1-4, Jackson 0-1), Rend Lake 11-34 (Dial 5-12, Rogers 2-4, Adjei 1-8, Burton 1-4, Luke 1-3, Jones 1-2, Moore 0-1). Rebounds--JWCC 48 (Miller, Bevans 10), Rend Lake 33 (Dial, Luke 5). Assists--JWCC 16 (Miller 4), Rend Lake 10 (Adjei 4). Steals--JWCC 8 (Miller 3), Rend Lake 11 (Rogers 4). Blocked shots--JWCC 5 (Bevans 3), Rend Lake 2 (McCarty, Luke). Turnovers--JWCC 20, Rend Lake 13. Fouls--JWCC 18, Rend Lake 24. Fouled out--Moore.