Men’s basketball: North Central advances to CCIW tourney final
February 22, 2013 9:42PM
BLOOMINGTON — Some clutch play from its veterans and an inspired performance off the bench moved the North Central College men’s basketball team into the College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin Tournament championship game for the second straight year on Friday, as the Cardinals closed with a flourish and defeated Wheaton College, 59-50, at the Shirk Center.
The Cardinals are now 23-3 this season, establishing a school record for single-season wins, and have now won their last seven games. North Central advances to Saturday’s final against Augustana College, a 53-47 winner over No. 1 seed Illinois Wesleyan University in Friday’s other semifinal.
In a game in which points came at a premium, North Central got its largest supply from an unexpected source, as junior forward Jack Burchett stepped up and delivered his best game in a Cardinal uniform to date. Burchett tallied 15 points and 13 rebounds, both career highs, along with two assists, two blocked shots and two steals. He made all five field-goal attempts and sank four free throws in the final 38 seconds to help seal the victory.
North Central owned a five-point lead early in the first half before the Thunder (20-6) rallied and took a 19-18 lead with 4:37 left in the period. Burchett put the Cardinals back in front, sinking a jumper in the lane before grabbing a defensive rebound and dribbling from end to end to convert a layup, and North Central got two free throws from Charlie Rosenberg just before time ran out to take a 24-20 lead into halftime.
Leading, 26-25, with 17:18 left in the second half, the Cardinals got a three-pointer from Pat Rourke which sparked a 12-3 surge that gave North Central its first double-digit lead at 38-28. Wheaton put its fate in the hand of junior guard Tyler Peters, the CCIW’s leading scorer, who scored eight of the Thunder’s next 10 points as they narrowed the gap to a single point at 41-40. A tip-in and two free throws from forward Nathan Haynes put Wheaton in front for the first time in the second period, 46-43, and prompted a Cardinal timeout with 5:20 to play.
Wheaton scored the bulk of its second-half points off of dribble-drives from the top of the key, and the Cardinals came out of their timeout in a zone defense to halt the penetration. The switch paid off as North Central kept the Thunder from scoring for more than four minutes and did not allow a Wheaton field goal for the rest of the game. Derek Raridon found Aaron Tiknis on the left wing for a game-tying three-pointer, then sank a triple of his own to put the Cardinals back in front before feeding Tiknis for yet another three to give North Central some breathing room.
With just under a minute to play, Vince Kmiec blocked a Wheaton three-point attempt. Burchett collected the rebound and was fouled, making both shots with 38.7 seconds on the clock. He then came up with a steal which led to a pair of charity tosses by Kmiec, and Burchett grabbed another board on the following possession, making two more free throws to give the Cardinals their largest lead at 59-48 with 22.8 seconds to play.
North Central made its game-clinching surge without leading scorer Landon Gamble, who fouled with 5:35 to play. Raridon finished with 10 points, six rebounds and five assists and Kmiec grabbed a team-high three steals. Peters accounted for more than half of Wheaton’s scoring, tallying 26 points on 8 of 15 shooting.
Saturday’s championship game at the Shirk Center is set for 7:30 p.m.