The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Sports

December 20, 2012

Jaguars finish strong

DANVILLE —  Finishing strong has been the motto of the Danville Area Community College men’s basketball team for the past few weeks.

On Thursday night, the seventh-rated Jaguars finished the first-half of their season with an 84-68 victory over the Kankakee Community College Cavaliers at the Mary Miller Gymnasium.

“This was our last game of this part of the year, so we wanted to go out with a bang,’’ said DACC sophomore Evan Blackmon, who had 17 points and eight rebounds. “We executed pretty well on both ends of the court and we got the job done. We finished off strong.’’

And with back-to-back victories at home this week, the Jaguars, who won nine of their first 10 games, conclude the first half of their season with a 13-3 record.

“We’ve talked a lot about finishing stuff during this whole first half of the year,’’ said DACC guard Chris Whitehead, who had 15 points and a season-high nine assists. “We wanted to finish strong after starting out well.

“We didn’t want to start out strong and end on a bad note.’’

The Jaguars, who won four of their last five, will now take 23 days off until they play Wabash College on Saturday, Jan. 12.

“Finishing has been our motto for the last three weeks,’’ DACC coach Mike Carpenter said. “It wasn’t just the first half of the season, but it was also finishing each practice, finishing each defensive possession and finishing out academically.

“It will continue to be our motto in the second half of the season. We want to finish everything we start.’’

And on Thursday night, Carpenter saw his team play a very good basketball game.

“I couldn’t be more proud of this group,’’ Carpenter said. “They played so hard and they played together.

“Tonight was the first time that our defense was solid for 40 minutes and our offense was also solid for the most part. We still have some things to work out.’’

But, it appears that DACC is getting better and better on the defensive end in each contest.

The Jaguars have held four of their last five opponents to 70 or fewer points and they are now 10-0 in those games.

“All week, we’ve worked on defense, because we’ve been having some defensive breakdowns,’’ Whitehead said. “We wanted to finish on a strong defensive note.

“And, because they were a good, athletic team, we knew defense was going to be the key to getting the win.’’

Kankakee (9-4) came into Thursday’s contest averaging more than 80 points per game, but the Cavaliers never got into an offensive rhythm, shooting just 46 percent (26-of-56).

“Their guards were quick and they were slashers,’’ Blackmon said. “I think our guards stepped up and won the battle.’’

DACC’s trio of Whitehead, Blackmon and Derek Shouse, who had a game-high 23 points, outscored Kankakee’s threesome of Anthony Williams, LeBarron Hull and Girbran Smith, 45-34.

And the Jaguars wound up with five players in double figures and with Whitehead’s nine assists, DACC had 19 assists on 33 baskets.

“We had good ball movement,’’ Whitehead said. “If we don’t move the ball, we don’t score as well.

“We had five guys in double digits and that helps a lot.’’

According to Carpenter, it was the best game of the year for Whitehead.

“He ran the offense to near perfection,’’ Carpenter said. “When he is getting that ball moving, and putting pressure on the defense, we can be a tough team to beat.’’

Smith was the leading scorer for the Cavaliers with 21, while former Danville High standout D’Lando Carter finished with 13.

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