March 8, 2014
ELGIN—For the first time in school history, the Carl Sandburg College men’s basketball team is going to the NJCAA Division II national tournament.
Sophomore guard Juwan Hubbard (Rockford, Ill./Guilford) scored the game-winning basket with just over a minute left as the Chargers (18-14) rallied to beat Olive-Harvey 73-69 on Saturday at Elgin Community College in the championship game of the Region IV District A tournament.
“People might view this as an upset, but I felt like we had the potential to do this for most of the season,” said Chargers coach Ryan Twaddle, who was named the Region IV Coach of the Year. “I’m just so happy for our guys. They earned it, and now they’re a part of history.”
Sandburg, the fifth seed in the tournament, advances to nationals for the first time after finishing as Region IV runner-up in 1985 and 2002. The Chargers will play in the national tournament March 18-22 at Danville Area Community College. The time and opponent for their first game has yet to be determined.
Hubbard, who had 19 points, eight rebounds and was named the tournament’s MVP, scored the go-ahead bucket on a drive to his right with 1:16 to go for a 67-65 Chargers lead.
“They couldn’t stop our pick-and-roll the whole game,” Hubbard said. “I was just trying to keep control of the ball and finish it.”
The Chargers still led 71-69 in the final seconds when third-seeded Olive-Harvey (22-11) had two great looks at the basket. The Panthers’ Quentin Ruff had an open 3-pointer from the left corner that rimmed off. It went straight to teammate Torrey Oliver (team-high 12 points), who had a clean look at a game-tying putback, but his shot was strong off the backboard. Sandburg sophomore forward Mitch Wendling (Athens, Ill./Athens), who had a game-high nine rebounds, hauled it in and hit two free throws with :00.4 left to seal the victory.
“We kept our composure the whole game,” Twaddle said. “We got down early but we didn’t panic. We knew it would be a game of runs, we stuck with what we wanted to do and we were able to hit our free throws at the end.”
Sophomore forward Aaron Powers (Springfield, Ill./Lanphier) scored a game-high 20 points for the Chargers on 5-of-5 shooting and also was named to the all-tournament team. Freshman guard Vince Gooden (Markham, Ill./Tinley Park) added 12 points off the bench for Sandburg.
The Chargers scored the game’s first five points, but Olive-Harvey opened up a 24-12 lead with 7:56 to go in the first half thanks to a 9-0 run on back-to-back 3-pointers by Diondre Starks and another trey by Jalen Campbell.
The Chargers closed the half scoring 17 of the final 25 to get back within 32-29 at the break. The key part of that stretch was a 7-0 run with a rebound basket by sophomore forward Jeremy Brown (Chillicothe, Ill./Illinois Valley Central), a Hubbard layup and a Powers 3 from the top of the key.
Sandburg forged its first tie of the second half on Powers’ rebound basket at 17:57 to make it 36-36, and the teams traded blows the rest of the way. Neither squad led by more than five in the second half, and the teams combined for 10 ties and three lead changes after halftime.
“We earned this,” Hubbard said. “We came too far for it to end here.”
Carl Sandburg College men’s basketball sophomore guard Juwan Hubbard, right, celebrates with the rest of the Chargers following their 73-69 win over Olive-Harvey in the championship game of the Region IV District A tournament on Saturday at Elgin Community College.