College Basketball: South Suburban finishes seventh in national tournament
By Steve Millar For Sun-Times Media March 22, 2014 10:18PM
Updated: April 24, 2014 10:07AM
South Suburban had an opportunity Saturday to do what not many sports teams get to do: end their season with a win.
The Bulldogs made it happen, claiming the NJCAA Division II National Tournament consolation championship with a 70-61 win over St. Louis Community College in Danville.
“It feels great to go out with a win,” South Suburban’s Jalen Brown said in a phone interview. “No one on our team had ever ended a season with a win before. We all played together and finished the season on a good note.”
Brown led the way, scoring 17 points and dominating on the glass to finish with 16 rebounds. Antonio Levy (Thornton) also scored 17 points for the Bulldogs (31-6).
After a surprising first-round loss to Fort Scott (Kan.), South Suburban won its next three games to finish seventh in the 16-team tournament.
“We really wanted to get to that 30-win mark,” South Suburban coach John Pigatti said. “We got to 31. It’s the first time in school history we’ve won 30 games in three straight seasons. To go 3-1 here, we did a nice job bouncing back from the loss (Wednesday).”
St. Louis (22-12) led 42-32 early in the second half, but South Suburban took over the game. It started with defense. Utilizing a full-court 2-2-1 press, the Bulldogs got St. Louis off balance, holding it to 26 second-half points and 9-of-32 shooting from the field after the break.
“Our kids turned up the defensive intensity and we made some big shots when we needed them,” Pigatti said.
Thornton product Charles Knowles (9 points) and Brown hit key three-pointers to spark South Suburban’s comeback.
“Our assistant coach (Jonathan) Franks pulled me aside and gave me a pep talk,” Brown said. “I didn’t have a great game (Friday). He told me to play for myself, play for my teammates and play for my coach and give it everything I had. I wanted to come out and be aggressive.”
Johnnie Stevens added 10 points for South Suburban. Cortez Conners led St. Louis with 20 points.
It’s the third straight season the Bulldogs have placed at the national tournament following a third-place finish in 2012 and a sixth-place showing last year.