DANVILLE — Everyone enters the NJCAA Division II National Tournament with the goal of cutting down the nets and heading home as the National Champions.
But, only one team gets that opportunity.
Iowa Lakes and Garrett College each saw their dreams of a national title end in the semifinals on Friday night, so what’s the motivation in the third-place game?
“It’s hard to bounce back, but you just have to have respect for the game,’’ said Iowa Lakes coach Troy Larson. “We also have some guys that were going to be wearing that Iowa Lakes jersey for the last time.
“We consider our program to be a family and this is the last time that this family will get a chance to play together.’’
The final dance of 2021 for the Lakers of Iowa Lakes was a fitting tribute for those players in their last game.
Iowa Lakes shot a remarkable 60.9 percent (39-of-64) on its way to a 90-71 triumph over the Garrett College Lakers on the Dick Shockey Court at the Mary Miller Complex.
“I really appreciate how hard they competed,’’ Larson said. “Our prep wasn’t really good after the loss to DMACC last night, but we did a good job of executing.’’
Larson admitted that his team’s depth was a benefit especially having Keshawn Pegues, who missed the first game of the tournament as he was in quarantine.
Pegues had a team-high 26 points to go along with 8 rebounds, one assist and two steals in the victory for Iowa Lakes.
“He was a first team all-region pick who had to miss the first game,’’ Larson said. “I think he was trying to make up for lost time today and it helped having another guy like him.’’
Garrett assistant coach Jeff Hoffman, acknowledged that depth played a factor in the third-place contest as four of the five starters for the Lakers averaged more than 34 minutes per game in their four tournament contests.
“Our guys gave all they had, but the win over Ancilla (on Thursday night) just wore us out,’’ he said. “We don’t have a deep roster, and we just never seemed to recover from that game.’’
Hoffman also thought that Iowa Lakes ran some really good offensive sets.
“I would like to have played these guys 10 times, just for the experience,’’ he said. “We didn’t get to play any of the Maryland jucos this year and that’s some of the best competition we see every year before we get to nationals.
“At the end of the day, all of this is learning experience. There is going to be a lot of stuff on those films that we can show these guys to help them get better.’’
Davis Molloy had a team-high 26 points for Garrett, while D’Monte Brown, an all-tournament selection, added 18.
Mott 92, Sandhills 89
DANVILLE — JD Rawls came off the bench to score a game-high 24 points as the Bears came back to take fifth-place in the NJCAA Division II National Tournament with a win over the Flyers on the Dick Shockey Court at the Mary Miller Complex.
While Rawls led the way for Mott (16-5) it was Saiveon Williams that scored 15 second-half points and finished with 20 for the game that helped propel Mott to the victory.
Sandhills, who will return to NJCAA Division III basketball next season to defend its 2020 title, had five players finish in double figures led by Derreco Miller and Bryan Quillen with 15 points each.
Mott’s Andre Bradford, who had 16 points against Sandhills, was selected for the all-tournament team as was Savion Staton of Sandhills.
SAU Tech 66, South Suburban 63
DANVILLE — The Rockets overcame a 5-point halftime deficit with Allen Taylor scoring 17 second-half points on their way to a win over the Bulldogs in the consolation championship game at the NJCAA Division II National Tournament.
SAU Tech (20-5) shot 53.6 percent in the second half, while limiting South Suburban (20-6) to just 34.6 percent shooting.
Taylor, who was selected to the all-tournament team, had a team-high 19 points, while Donovan Vickers had a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Rockets.
Deshawndre Washington, who also made the all-tournament team, had a game-high 27 points in the losing effort. Washington averaged 29.3 points per contest during the tournament, finishing with 117 points scored.