March 6, 2019 / No. 2 Trailblazers bow out of District 16 tournament
INA, Ill. – The second-ranked Vincennes University men’s basketball team fell 78-76 to Kaskaskia in the semifinals of the NJCAA Division I District 16 Tournament on Wednesday night, but the Trailblazers almost certainly will earn an at-large bid to the national tournament.
A season of excellence can’t be wiped out with one upset loss at the buzzer.
Eight at-large bids and 16 automatic district qualifiers will be announced during the NJCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Selection Show on Monday, March 11, at 12:30 p.m. EDT.
The Trailblazers own a 30-2 record, won the District 16 regular season title, have been ranked as high as No. 1 this season, and were ranked in the top four of every regular season national poll.
VU Hall of Fame coach Todd Franklin expects the Trailblazers to earn an at-large bid and a top eight seed for the NJCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship national tournament.
“On the body of work, there’s no way we shouldn’t be in the top eight,” he said.
VU was the top seed in the District 16 tournament at Rend Lake College. The Trailblazers led No. 5 seed Kaskaskia 37-35 at halftime.
In the closing minutes of the second half, VU was still in control of the scoreboard.
Sophomore Lony Francis Jr. nailed a jump shot that put the Trailblazers ahead 70-68 with 3 minutes 52 seconds remaining in the second half.
The teams traded baskets.
With 52.5 seconds left, Thomas Bell broke a tie by sinking two free throws and Kaskaskia was up 75-73. The Blue Devils made it 76-73 with a free throw by Jamal Thomas with 25.2 seconds to go.
Freshman Kevin Osawe came up big with 14.7 seconds on the clock and hit a huge shot for the Trailblazers. His 3-pointer tied the score at 76-all.
It appeared the game was headed for overtime, but Kaskaskia’s Parker Dortch scored the winning basket on a tip-in at the buzzer.
Four VU players finished in double figures.
Francis poured in 20 points and pulled down 13 rebounds. Freshman Colton Sandage hit three 3-pointers on the way to scoring 11 points. Sophomore Keith Clemons added 11 points. Freshman Kevin Osawe contributed 10 points.
Sophomore George Dixon was plagued by foul trouble from tip-off. He picked up two fouls in the opening two minutes. He finished with five points and four rebounds.
VU was 17-for-25 from the free throw line. The Trailblazers made 26 of 59 shots from the field.
Dortch and Bell carried Kaskaskia in the second half. They combined for 29 of the Blue Devils’ 43 second-half points. Dortch scored 14 of his 23 points in the second half. Bell scored 15 points after halftime and finished with 21.
“We lost tonight because we got out-toughed mentally, emotionally and physically,” Franklin said. “We were out-toughed from the get go and we were out-toughed for the last play.
“We let the ball get in the middle of the lane. Our guards didn’t stay in front of the ball.”
It was only the second loss of the season for the Trailblazers after a 15-game winning streak following the overtime loss to Olney Central on Jan. 9.
The Trailblazers now turn their attention to selection day Monday and the national tournament. The NJCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship is March 18-23 in Hutchinson, Kansas.
VU has made six straight national tournament appearances and holds the record for the longest streak of consecutive national tournament appearances in the modern era of junior college basketball.
The NJCAA will stream the men’s basketball selection show live on Monday afternoon free of charge on NJCAA TV, Facebook Live, and Twitter.
LINK to VU Online Newsroom, click HERE
LINK to VU Athletics, click HERE
MARCIA MARTINEZ, University Life Reporter & Sports Information Director
812-888-4164 office, 314-599-1519 cell, VUNews@vinu.edu, email@example.com
TRAVIS DAVID, Assistant Sports Information Director
812-888-6831 office, firstname.lastname@example.org
VINCENNES UNIVERSITY, Department of University Relations, www.vinu.edu/newsroom