CHAMPAIGN — Winning and being in a position to win are two totally different things.
The Danville Area Community College men’s basketball team has put itself in a position to win every Mid-West Athletic Conference men’s basketball game this season, but the Jaguars were just 1-4 in the league entering Saturday’s game against the Parkland College Cobras at the Dodds Athletic Center.
Once again, DACC found itself holding a 60-58 advantage with just under six minutes left, and while Parkland scored the next three points to take a 61-60 lead, the Jaguars scored on their final six possessions to claim a 72-65 victory over the Cobras.
“I would say that 90 percent of our losses this season have come down to executing in the final five minutes,’’ DACC coach Dajuan Gouard said. “We have been working on end of the game situations for the last two months, and today, if finally clicked.’’
But, at first, it didn’t look good.
The Jaguars, who improve to 11-11 overall and 2-4 in the M-WAC, had a pair of turnovers, a missed shot and a missed free throw after Gouard called a timeout to remind his team about being in this position before.
“I think after those two turnovers, that’s when it started to click,’’ Gouard said. “They started to think about what happens when we do that and on the next few possessions, we got a layup and made some free throws.’’
Kenny Dean hit two free throws with 3 minutes, 30 seconds left to give the Jaguars a 62-61 lead and then Daniel Carter, a former Danville High standout, came up with an offensive tip-in and Danville Area Community College was on its way to snapping a three-game losing streak.
But, the biggest blow to Parkland in the final minutes came when Joseph English buried a 25-foot 3-pointer as the shot clock buzzer was sounding with 30 seconds left in the game. English, who had a team-high 15 points, had given DACC a five-point lead (68-63).
“We needed this win as a team,’’ English said. “We just made sure that we were communicating with each other at the end. Basically, we needed to get stops on the defensive end and then make smart plays on offense. It was the communication that we had on the court that won us this game.’’
And what about his big 3-pointer?
“I saw it coming my way the whole time,’’ he said. “When I caught the ball, I was just ready to shoot. I knew that I was going to have to take the shot and I was completely confident that I was going to knock it down.’’
Gouard said that he has been challenging his guys to make a shot like that all year.
“When you play this game, it’s going to come down to someone hitting a big shot like that,’’ he said. “For the first time this season, we had someone step up and flourish in the moment.’’
But, it wasn’t just the play of English of Tre Granger, who came off the bench with 11 points, that stood our to Gouard on Saturday.
Carter, who had played very sparingly in the past week, made a huge contribution on the defensive end. He helped contain Parkland sophomore center Shane Seniour, who made just 1 of his final six shots, and Carter pulled down four rebounds in the contest.
“D.C. came off the bench and gave us a great spark — with his rebounding and defense,’’ Gouard said. “We have a variety of guys that could be starters on number of other teams. So, we expect to have guys like Daniel Carter step up in those situations when his number is called.’’
Parkland, which beat DACC 75-70 on Jan. 29 in Danville, made just 31 percent of its shots (20-of-65) on Saturday and point guard Lance Magee, who averages 11.5 points a game, was held to just two.
“The big thing was that we were able to contain (Magee),’’ English said. “They do so much through him on the offensive end, and we were able to keep their big guys under control as well.’’
After playing five of its first six conference games on the road, the Jaguars will finish the league season with four straight home games.
“Everyone is coming back to us,’’ Gouard said. “I think this could be a turning point. These guys are realizing what it takes to be successful.’’
Four players finished in double figures for DACC. English had a team-high 15, followed by Dean with 12, Granger had 11 and Virgil Fleming had 10.
Parkland, which falls to 14-8 overall and 3-3 in the M-WAC, was led by Nathan Tidwell with a game-high 16 coming off the bench, Seniour was the only other double digit scorer for the Cobras with 15 and he had a game-high 10 rebounds.