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Men’s College Basketball: Kankakee CC rallies past South Suburban College

Sporting its new No. 1 ranking in the National Junior College Coaches Association Division II national poll, South Suburban College’s men’s basketball team jumped all over NJCAA Division I opponent Kankakee Community College in the first half Thursday night.

Going 19-of-31 from the field before the break on their way to a 53-39 halftime lead, the Bulldogs looked unstoppable, every bit worthy of the No. 1 ranking.

Then came the second half.

Hurt by a leg injury to forward Charles Knowles, South Suburban let the big lead slip away. Kankakee’s Alvin Braddock finished the comeback, scoring the game-winner on a putback with two seconds left in the Cavaliers’ 77-75 victory in South Holland.

“Charles Knowles got hurt, and we’re not good enough to lose a guy like that and win,” South Suburban coach John Pigatti said. “We made stupid mistakes. (Kankakee) plays street ball. That’s not how we play, but we tried to play their style and played right into their hands.”

Kankakee (8-2) scored the first seven points of the second half to cut the South Suburban lead in half.

The Bulldogs (9-2) responded and still seemed in total when Gary Evans Jr.’s basket gave them a 67-52 lead with 11:11 to go.

Down 70-59 with eight minutes left, Kankakee outscored South Suburban 15-0 over the next six minutes to take a four-point lead.

The Bulldogs answered with baskets from Korbin McClain (18 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists) and Crete-Monee product Marius Hopkins to tie the game with 1:02 to go.

After Braddock (22 points, 12 rebounds) split two free throws, McClain did the same with 16 seconds left. Braddock’s rebound and score off a Dabriawn Johnson miss was the game-winner.

“We just stopped executing what we were supposed to do,” Pigatti said. “We were all standing around hoping the clock would run out. (Kankakee) is a Division I team. They’re supposed to win this game and we had them beat.”

Thornton alum Antonio Levy led South Suburban’s fast start with 12 first-half points, but finished with just 14.

Anthony Strickland (5 assists) also had 14 points and Jalen Brown finished with 11 points and five rebounds for the Bulldogs.

“We got too content with the lead,” Pigatti said. “We have to rebound better, execute better and listen better, because the guys just stopped listening to me (Thursday).”

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