LINCOLN — A year ago, the John Wood Community College Blazers were one win away from the NJCAA Division II National Tournament.
Rend Lake, the eventual Division II National Champions, defeated John Wood 86-78 on its home court to claim Region 24 championship.
The Blazers with just one returning player, T.J. Tisdale, made amends on Sunday, beating the Illinois Central College Cougars 79-74 in the Region 24 championship game at Lincoln College to claim the final spot in the 2014 NJCAA Division II National Tournament.
“It’s unique,’’ John Wood coach Brad Hoyt admitted. “Last year we had a bunch of sophomores and guys that have been through it before. T.J. is only one that played last year, so with 12 freshmen, you just don’t know. We said all along that this team had a chance.
“To get to this point a year ago, and to fall a little short gave us a little confidence as a coaching staff. We just had to convince our guys of that.’’
The one guy that had previous championship game experience, Tisdale, made sure the Blazers (23-9) punched their ticket for Danville on Sunday.
Tisdale scored a game-high 34 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for John Wood, while freshman guard Jordan Johnson also a double-double with 19 points, 10 rebounds and he also dished out six assists.
“Our point guard Jordan Johnson has played the last 80 minutes,’’ Hoyt said. “He played all 40 minutes on Saturday and all 40 today. He hasn’t come out of the game. He is asking for a day off, and he probably deserves it. We rely on him and our All-American candidate, T.J. Tisdale.
“When the chips were down in the final six minutes, we tried to get Tisdale the ball. He has a way of finishing plays.’’
Illinois Central College (23-8) took a 57-53 lead with just over six minutes remaining as former Danville High sharpshooter Devyn McGuire made a pair of 3-pointers during a Cougars 10-5 run midway through the second half.