BY AARON PATTERSON
There should have been no worry in the minds of the Rend Lake Warriors. A 12-point lead at halftime against a Cecil College Seahawks team that was beginning to see their once hot shooting go cold should have been enough.
But the Warriors knew better. They had seen teams comeback against them previously this season. In fact, it happened on the exact same floor against the Danville Area Community College Jaguars, and the Warriors were determined to prevent it from happening again.
Fortunately, Rend Lake coach Randy House called a time out early in the second half, just in time to slow Cecil College’s momentum, and turn a potential Seahawks comeback into a 98-75 win.
Cecil College started the second half on a 6-0 run to pull within 49-43 when House called the time out, but no magical message was delivered, simply a reminder of what had happened in the past.
“There were a few magic words, if you know what I mean,” Rend Lake sophomore forward Bronson Verhines said. “We have a tendency to do that. We get a lead in the first half, and then we come out in the second half and we always have to make a run.
“In fact, we did that when we played Danville at Danville. We were up 14 at the half, and they came out and it was seriously like a 20-0 run in the second half and they ended up winning that game. That was one of our three losses. We definitely don’t want to do that again. We have that tendency. We called a time out, calmed us down a little bit and we got under control. We got a little bit of momentum in our favor, and it worked out alright.”
The Warriors responded by going on a 13-3 run to again extend their lead to seven points, and by the five minute, 45 second mark of the second half, had built a 27-point advantage.
Much of Rend Lake’s success came on the glass where the Warriors ourebounded the Seahawks 61-35.Verhines had a game-high 15 boards including eight on the offensive glass, paving the way to his game-high 18 points.
“We watched a little film on them and thought we could be aggressive on the glass,” House said. “The thing of it is, we’ve been aggressive on the glass all year. We’ve out-rebounded our opponents just about every game. I think there was one or two games where we did not out-rebound our opponents. When you get 26 more than they do, that’s going to give you some opportunities.”
Cecil College coach LeShawn Hammett knew well in advance that rebounding might be an issue, and even made a point to mention it in the pregame meeting. Despite his team’s efforts, the Warriors won not only the rebounding battle, but the war that was the opening round of the NJCAA Division II National Tournament.
“One of the things we talked about tonight in the pregame was second-chance points,” Hammett said. “We wanted to limit them to one possession, and they won the rebounding game.
“It was kind of like a boxing match,” he added. “Once they started winning, they started jabbing us off until it was time to lay the final blow.”
Motez Buford scored 15 points for Rend Lake while Cortez Macklin (13), Dawson Verhines (12, and Noel Allen (10) also reached double figures for the Warriors.
Donte Adams was Cecil College’s leading scorer with 24 points and Amadius Der-weer added 22.. Charles Burley finished with a game-high 13 assists.
The Seahawks will attempt to rebound in Thursday’s 9 a.m. game against Phoenix College while the Warriors battle against South Suburban tonight at 8 p.m.