Men’s Basketball: North Central beats defending champs, moves on to Sweet 16
BY PAUL JOHNSON For Sun-Times Media March 9, 2013 10:12PM
Jack Burchett (32) of North Central shows his joy at the end of the Cardinals' 64-60 win over Wisconsin-Whitewater Saturday in the Division III national tournament. | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media
North Central College’s men’s basketball team may have found a new home away from home.
The Cardinals were forced to head down the road to Benedictine to host their second-round NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Championship game against Wisconsin-Whitewater Saturday due to the Cardinals’ hosting the NCAA Division III Men’s and Women’s Indoor Track and Field Championships this weekend.
North Central advanced to the Sweet 16 for the second straight season with a riveting 64-60 win over the defending national champions in front of a raucous crowd at Benedictine’s Rice Center. The Cardinals advance to the third round next Saturday at 7 p.m. when they will host CCIW rival Illinois Wesleyan.
“It was nice,” North Central senior Derek Raridon said. “You grow up dreaming of playing in games like that. When you have such a great atmosphere, it’s fun to take that challenge and step up and make plays. I think our team did a great job of that tonight. We’ll be happy to get back to Merner (Fieldhouse) now.”
Whitewater (24-5) used a 13-2 run in the second half to erase a six-point NCC lead and take a 46-41 lead with 8:19 left. But the Cardinals (26-3) clawed back into it. Four free throws from Raridon and a three-point play from junior Brandon Williams tied the game at 48-48 with 6:20 left.
Williams hitting clutch shots was a theme all night. He shot 6-for-6 from the field and scored 13 points off the bench. His driving lay-up with 4:51 left gave the Cardinals a 50-48 lead. Another driving lay-in with 1:48 left pushed the lead to 58-55.
“It was good to step up for the team, help the team out,” Williams said. “I came in and tried to create a lot of energy when I got in, relieve some of the pressure on some of the guys. I tried to attack as much as I could and open up things for the team. They didn’t step up on me, so I was able to get all the way to the basket.”
Whitewater stuck with the Cardinals in the final minutes, though the Warhawks’ last lead was 48-45. Freshman Darnell Harris hit two deep three-pointers and Quardell Young had a driving lay-up with 34 seconds left to cut the lead to 61-60.
But Vince Kmiec hit two clutch free throws and Raridon split a pair with three seconds left after Harris missed a three-pointer that Jack Burchett rebounded to clinch the game.
“Ballgames usually come down to free throws,” Raridon said. “I was able to hit one out of two at the end there. It was part of an experience factor. We played in big games.”
Free throw shooting deserted the Cardinals in the first half. They were 1-for-7 as a team and missed the front end of three bonus situations. But Burchett had two consecutive thunderous dunks as part of an 8-0 run to close the first half that put NCC down only 29-28 at the break.
“It was huge for us because things were not going our way,” North Central coach Todd Raridon said. “Their defensive pressure bothered us. It was huge because it kept us close to a very good basketball team. It was still anybody’s ballgame.”
First-team All-CCIW pick Landon Gamble was held to six minutes in the first half due to foul trouble. But he scored the first seven points of the second half to give NCC a 35-29 lead. He wound up with 10 points in only 13 minutes of action.
Raridon led the team with 18 points, passing North Central Board of Trustees Chairman Steve Hoeft, who graduated in 1973, for second place on the school’s all-time scoring list. Raridon has now scored 1,665 points.