BY CHAD DARE
An ugly win is always better than a pretty loss in the eyes of Danville Area Community College coach Mike Carpenter.
That’s how he summed up the Jaguars 77-68 win over the Wabash Valley Warriors on Thursday night at the Mary Miller Gymnasium.
“It wasn’t pretty, but I’ll take it,’’ said Carpenter, whose fifth-rated team improved to 7-1 with its second consecutive home win over an NJCAA Division I school.
“We can’t complain, we got the win,’’ said DACC guard Chris Whitehead, who had eight of his 16 points in the final four minutes. “Coach tells us all of the time that we just need to keep fighting. The game is never over, no matter how far we’re down.
“Everyone stepped up and made plays down the stretch.’’
Wabash Valley (1-2) led by as much as six (57-51) in the second half and the Warriors had a lead for most of the contest.
“We have to come out with more intensity like we’ve done in the past,’’ said DACC center Ronnie White, who finished with a team-high 17 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. “If we don’t come out with high intensity than we’re not going to play our game.’’
Carpenter kept encouraging his team to keep things close.
“We’ve been practicing since day one with four-minute games,’’ Carpenter said. “Everyday, we work on late-game situations.
“We felt that if we keep it in a close game, we would have a chance.’’
DACC overcame a 5-point deficit with a 6-1 run to enter that final four-minute stretch tied at 63-63 after a free-throw from Evan Blackmon.
Wabash Valley made just two field goals and 1-of-4 free throws in the final four minutes. Additionally, the Warriors committed five of their game-high 26 turnovers during that stretch.
“We used defense,’’ Whitehead said. “We forced them into a lot of turnovers, got us some extra shots and down the stretch, we did enough to win.’’
Whitehead and sophomore Derek Shouse each had a key steal for DACC during that stretch.
“Chris and Derek stepped up with some big defensive stops,’’ Carpenter said. “Derek didn’t have a good night shooting, but he played good defense.
“Chris Whitehead did shoot great, but he made the right plays, especially at the end of the game.’’
Whitehead virtually sealed the victory with a driving layup and the resulting three-point play gave the Jaguars a 68-64 lead.
“His driving layup was huge,’’ said Carpenter, who said Thursday’s win reminded him a lot of last season’s team. “The fact that we shot 1-for-16 from the arc — a season low — and still won shows that we were able to manufacture offense in other ways.’’
But, it’s a game that the Jaguars say can be a good learning experience.
“It lets us know that we can’t just come out thinking we’re going to win the game,’’ Whitehead said. “We have to bring it every night. We didn’t play very well, but we pulled a win out.’’
Carpenter admitted part of his team’s struggles on Thursday night can be attributed to DACC playing its eighth game in 14 days.
“To come out of this stretch 7-1 — we will take it,’’ he said. “We need some rest to get back to playing with the energy we had to start the year.’’
Joining White and Whitehead in double figures was Mike Ryce with 14 points and nine rebounds.
Alex Carr had a game-high 20 points for Wabash Valley, while Rontray Chavis came off the bench with 13 and Brienne Miles had 10.
DACC is idle until Monday’s game in Kankakee against the Olivet Nazarene JV team.