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MEN'S BASKETBALL: House and Warriors face Shawnee Saints in Region XXIV opener Saturday in Peoria
WARRIORS - Rend Lake College heads into the NJCAA DII Region XXIV Tournament against the Shawnee Saints, Saturday, in East Peoria. FROM LEFT are; Jesse Smith (Campbell Hill), TeNale Roland (Louisville), Ameer Weeks (Chicago), Noel Allen (Guttenburg, N.J.), Cody Hanner (Harviell, Mo.), Dominique Bolden (Chicago), Dawson Verhines (Woodlawn), Kevon Fortney (Mt. Vernon) and Dennis Froemling (Campbell Hill). CLICK HERE for a larger image.
INA, Ill. - Hey basketball fans! There's more than one tournament this weekend in Peoria! Those planning to watch Woodlawn v. Carrollton in the IHSA 1A championship at 2 p.m., at the Peoria Civic Center, can wet their appetites on Rend Lake College v. Shawnee Community College at noon.
The Warriors will kick off the NJCAA DII Region XXIV Tournament at Lorene M. Ramsey Gymnasium, located inside the CougarPlex at Illinois Central College in East Peoria.
RLC is the tournament's top seed - something that has never happened since Rend Lake became a DII program - meaning they are two wins away from making the NJCAA national basketball tournament - something that has never happened in RLC history. That tournament is March 20-24 at Danville Area Community College in Danville.
If Rend Lake wins at noon Saturday against Shawnee, it will play at 1 p.m., Sunday, against the winner of John Wood and Parkland.
"There are no more, 'Hey, we'll get 'em tomorrow if we didn't get them today' speeches," said Warriors Head Coach Randy House.
The Warriors will be banking on the play of freshman point guard TeNale Roland (Louisville) who will be responsible for setting the offensive tone. Roland is the 17th leading scorer in the nation in NJCAA DII with an average 20.435 points per game. He is also the scoring leader in Region XXIV and the Great Rivers Athletic Conference, in which RLC is the only DII program.
"You can tell TeNale is the leader of the team when we need someone to take over. He is our go-to guy," said teammate Dawson Verhines (Woodlawn).
"TeNale is having a great year," House said. "I wouldn't trade him for any other guard in the region. He has been our glue and our leader, and we expect and need things from him to be successful in the tournament."
Another asset Roland brings to the Warriors is that when he threatens with the ball, he absorbs defensive focus, opening up scoring opportunities for guards Kevon Fortney (Mt. Vernon), Verhines, Jesse Smith (Campbell Hill), Dennis Froemling (Campbell Hill) and Ameer Weeks (Chicago). With good perimeter performances, Rend Lake increases its opportunities to feed big men Noel Allen (Guttenburg, N.J.), Dominique Bolden (Chicago) and Cody Hanner (Harviell, Mo.).
Rend Lake won 75-59 against Shawnee on the road earlier in the season. Roland, with 21 points, was one of four players to score double digits. Fortney had 17, Allen pitched in 10 and Derrick Williams (Monticello, Ark.) had 12. Williams, along with Vennis Brown, has not been eligible to play this semester. The Saints were led by Eddrick Bruce with 16 and Jerry Carter with 12.
"We did that with a different crew than what we are playing with now," House said of the win over Shawnee on Nov. 29. "I think we are a better team now. Not because those guys are gone, but because we have played together for 29 games now and everyone is getting more and more comfortable with their role and the coaches' expectations."
House said he and assistant coaches Tommy Holder and Ward McDaniel will watch some recorded games of Shawnee, John Wood and Parkland - mostly looking for player tendencies and weaknesses. But RLC's game is really the focus.
"We are more concerned about us playing the way we want to play offensively and defensively," House said. "We feel like if we go do that, we put ourselves in a position to have a positive result in a game.
"It's one of those things that you can think that they are ready but they still have to come out and perform," he added. "When the ball goes up at noon on Saturday, we need to get after it, win it … and come back on Sunday where it's 40 minutes to get to nationals and it boils down to who wants it the most."
For all things athletic at The Lake, visit RLC online at www.rlc.edu/warriors.