DANVILLE, Ill. -- Cory Miller Jr. had to rethink his approach.
With the John Wood Community College men's basketball team trailing St. Clair County (Mich.) 33-32 late in the first half of Wednesday's opening round game of the NJCAA Division II national tournament, Miller got a breakaway off a long rebound and attempted a dunk to give the Trail Blazers the lead.
He missed it.
"It didn't go as well as planned, I can tell you that," Miller said.
A minute or so later, a steal gave Miller another opportunity to score in transition. This time, he chose an easier route, making the layup to give the 11th-seeded Trail Blazers the lead as they went on to beat the Skippers 71-65 and advance to Thursday's quarterfinals against 14th-seeded Cecil (Md.) College.
"I wasn't risking it, not in this game," Miller said.
He knew better than to miss another.
"He thinks he can dunk since he's had a couple this year," JWCC coach Brad Hoyt said. "Maybe this humbled him a little bit. He won't quite do that again."
Miller even said so.
"I'll probably be shooting layups the rest of the week," Miller said.
But Hoyt doesn't necessarily believe that.
"No, he won't," Hoyt said with a chuckle. "His eyes will get big and he'll have another shot at it. He'll rectify it I'm sure."
He did that with his all-around play Wednesday. Miller finished with 20 points, nine rebounds and two assists to guarantee the Trail Blazers will be staying at the tournament at least two more days.
Blazers become reading buddies
Following their victory, the Trail Blazers got on the team bus and headed to Schlarman Academy to read kindergarteners and first graders. Hoyt wanted the national tournament experience to be about more than basketball and was able to work with tournament directors to set up the reading opportunity once JWCC arrived in Danville.
The Trail Blazers, who do community service projects throughout the school year in Quincy, relished the moment.
"I had fun talking to the kids," sophomore forward Eric Easter said.
It simply didn't last long enough.
"I didn't even manage to get through one book," Easter said. "But it was good. The kids were great."
Adjusting to big stage
The Trail Blazers have experienced playing at the Mary Miller Complex before. They beat Danville Area Community College 76-63 there in early February as part of the yearly home-and-home series with the Mid-West Athletic Conference foe.
The regular-season game doesn't have the kind of atmosphere as Wednesday's game did.
It didn't take long for the Trail Blazers to realize they were in the national tournament.
"It was much louder than a normal game," Miller said. "We always have great crowds come out to John Wood that are loud as well. It's good for us to have that because it made us better prepared for this moment."
The Trail Blazers will face 14th-seeded Cecil (Md.) College at 6 p.m. Thursday in the quarterfinals. The Seahawks upset third-seeded Pima (Ariz.) 81-72 on Tuesday as freshman guard Jacob Falko scored 25 points, going 12 of 12 from the free-throw line. Sophomore guard Cornell Corbin had 13 points, 10 rebounds, four steals and two blocked shots.
The Seahawks (22-11) rank 28th in the nation in offensive rebounds (14.4 per game) and are in the top 50 in total rebounds (40.9 per game) and rebounding margin (plus-7.5 per game).
"They board it really hard," Miller said. "So I think it will be won on the glass for sure. But we're tough, and as long as we try to play our game, we'll be all right."