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College Basketball: South Suburban’s men’s team rises to No. 1 in NJCAA Div. II poll

Updated: January 7, 2014 6:35AM

South Suburban College men’s basketball coach John Pigatti knows it’s typical for a coach to say the only No. 1 ranking that matters is the one at the end of the season.

Pigatti doesn’t buy into that.

“These kids, no matter what happens the rest of the season, can say they were part of the No. 1 team in the country,” Pigatti said. “That means a lot. We’re honored. We want to relish the opportunity and take it from there.”

The Bulldogs rose from No. 7 to No. 1 when the latest National Junior College Athletic Association Division II rankings were released Tuesday.

Thursday night, in their first game this season as No. 1, the Bulldogs let a 53-39 halftime lead slip away in a 77-75 loss to NJCAA Division I opponent Kankakee Community College. Korbin McClain (18 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists), Anthony Strickland (14 points, 5 assists) and Antonio Levy (14 points) led the way in the defeat.

It’s the third time South Suburban (9-2) has been ranked No. 1 in the last four seasons. This time, it came as a surprise in the wake of a Nov. 23 loss to Harper College.

“It was a shock to us,” Pigatti said. “It was a great belated birthday present for me, though. I turned 50 on Monday and we found out about the ranking Tuesday.

“It definitely gives our program more respect. This year’s team is still trying to establish its identity and this puts a huge target on our back, but we’re going to embrace the opportunity.”

South Suburban guard Antonio Levy (Thornton) was named the Region IV-A Player of the Week after a 25-point performance Nov. 26 against Prairie State.

Moraine looks to rebound

Moraine Valley’s men’s team had a rough weekend at the Cincinnati State Technical and Community College Surge Classic.

The Cyclones were trounced by the hosts, ranked No. 2 in NJCAA Division II, 106-44. They also fell 116-89 to Malcolm X College.

“We need to rise to the occasion when we play better teams,” Moraine coach David Howard said. “Our Achilles’ heel is rebounding. We definitely need to work on that. They’re discouraged, but I still believe in my guys.”

Moraine, the national runner-up last season, is 2-6.

Lockport product Kyle Ward (17.2 points per game) and Thornwood alum Johnte Shannon (16.7) are having big seasons for the Cyclones.

Stuut still rolling

St. Xavier’s women’s team continues to get huge performances from junior forward Morgan Stuut.

Stuut hit five three-pointers and scored 30 points Sunday as the Cougars (6-3), ranked No. 13 in NAIA Division II, topped then-No. 11 Shawnee State (Ohio) 82-70.

Stuut is averaging 19.9 points and 10.6 rebounds per game.

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