Danville Commercial-News (Game Story)
DANVILLE, Ill. -- Sophomore Gevon Arrington/Petersburg scored a team-high 16 points, but No. 5 seed Richard Bland College dropped a 70-62 decision to No. 1 seed Southwestern (Iowa) Community College in the semifinals of the NJCAA Division II Men's Basketball Championship on Friday night at the Mary Miller Center in Danville, Illinois. Classmate Jaquan Wooten/Kinston, North Carolina added 10 points for the Statesmen (30-5), who had their 10-game winning streak stopped in the game played at Danville Area Community College. Richard Bland will play No. 2 seed South Suburban (Ill.) College (23-12) in the consolation (third-place) game of the national tournament on Saturday evening, March 25 at 6:30 p.m. ET in Illinois. Brodric Thomas scored a game-high 19 points for the Spartans (35-1).
Richard Bland, ranked No. 8 in the final NJCAA Division II Top 20 Poll, scored the first five points of the game to lead 5-0 at 18:13, getting a three-point field goal from Arrington and a layup by Wooten. A layup from freshman Stanley Taylor/Petersburg made it 7-2 at 16:45, but Southwestern, No. 1 in the final NJCAA DII Poll, used an 8-2 run to lead 10-9 at 15:07. The Statesmen answered with a three-pointer by freshman Deon Joyner/North Charleston, South Carolina at 13:08 and a free throw from classmate Ricky Hicks/Bronx, New York at 11:15 to lead 13-10. Richard Bland took advantage of a 7-0 run to take its largest lead of the half at 21-15 with 8:18 on the first-half clock, getting consecutive layups from Wooten before a conventional three-point play by Arrington on a jumper in the lane plus the free throw. Arrington's three-pointer at 4:38 made it 24-20, but the Spartans closed the half on another 8-2 run to lead 28-26 at the intermission. Arrington scored 10 first-half points.
Richard Bland scored the first basket of the second half on a layup by Wooten to tie it at 28-28 with 19:43 remaining. A jumper in the lane from Arrington at 15:08 had the Statesmen within 34-32, and an offensive rebound put-back basket by freshman Robert Smith/Hampton at 9:05 kept the deficit at two, 44-42. Unfortunately, Southwestern took control with a 16-3 run to lead 60-45 with just 3:38 on the clock. Richard Bland demonstrated its unwillingness to go away, however, as the Statesmen fought back while playing hard to the final buzzer. Richard Bland was within 63-56 at 1:18 following three free throws from sophomore Deandre Clark/Orange, 67-60 at :32.3 after two free throws by freshman Travius Smith/Norfolk, and 68-62 at :05.8 when Arrington scored on an offensive rebound basket ahead of two free throws by the Spartans to provide for the final eight-point margin.
Arrington led Richard Bland with his team-high 16 points, including 4-6 free throws, and four rebounds. Wooten added 10 points and six rebounds while limited to 20 minutes with foul difficulties for the second-straight game. Clark contributed nine points, while freshman Tim Bing Jr./District Heights, Maryland finished with seven points. Richard Bland shot 37% (19-51) from the field, including 32% (6-19) on three-pointers, and 60% (18-30) at the free throw line.
Thomas led Southwestern with his game-high 19 points, adding eight rebounds before fouling out. Jordan Johnson had 15 points for the Spartans, Lavon Highower added 11 points and Jamil Maddred contributed 10 points. SCC shot 41% (20-49) from the field, including 19% (4-21) on three-pointers, and 62% (26-42) at the line.
Richard Bland and Southwestern were playing for the first time in the sport of men's basketball, and the Spartans now lead the series, 1-0.
Richard Bland will play No. 2 South Suburban (Ill.) in the third-place game on Saturday. The Bulldogs lost to No. 3 seed Louisburg (N.C.) College, 86-73, in the other semifinal contest late Friday night.
Richard Bland is making its second National Tournament appearance in three years, after winning the 2015 NJCAA Division II National Championship.