MEN'S BASKETBALL: "From nothing to nationals"


MEN'S BASKETBALL: "From nothing to nationals"

EPIC WARRIORS - By securing a berth at the 2012 national championship tournament, the team of nine freshmen accomplished what no other Rend Lake team could in more than 45 years of basketball at the college. FROM LEFT are; Assistant Coach Tommy Holder, Assistant Coach Ward McDaniel, Dennis Froemling (Campbell Hill, Ill.), Jesse Smith (Campbell Hill, Ill.), Cody Hanner (Harviell, Mo.), Region XXIV Player of the Year TeNale Roland (Louisville), All-Region XXIV Noel Allen (Guttenberg, N.J.), All-Region Kevon Fortney (Mount Vernon, Ill.), Dominique Bolden (Chicago), Ameer Weeks (Chicago), Dawson Verhines (Woodlawn, Ill.) and Head Coach Randy House. Also pictured is House's son, Ryley. CLICK HERE for a larger image.

All-frosh RLC Warriors score historic berth in NJCAA Tournament

EAST PEORIA, Ill. - For the first time in school history, the Rend Lake College Warriors will play in the men's basketball national championship tournament.

On a last-second fade away by Region XXIV Player of the Year TeNale Roland, RLC won 73-71 Sunday over the Parkland College Cobras in the NJCAA DII Region XXIV Tournament. The Warriors are the District 13 champion and will play in the NJCAA DII Championship Tournament, March 20-24, at Danville Area Community College.

"That was a big shot," said second-year RLC Head Coach Randy House. "It was a culmination of a year's hard work toward something the kids decided they wanted to accomplish. Like I told them in the locker room, you will set a lot of goals in life that you won't reach. But this was a goal they did reach. They saw it all the way through. … It's something no one can ever take away from them. And, for Rend Lake College, they are the first ones to do it. They will always be the first team to get to the national tournament."

House - who was named NJCAA DII Region XXIV Coach of the Year on Sunday - coined the phrase "from nothing to nationals." He and assistant coaches Tommy Holder and Ward McDaniel started the recruiting season with a clean slate and put together a team of 13 freshmen with a goal of getting to the national tournament. Some would have thought it a pipe dream - especially if they knew RLC would lose four players well before the postseason. But House, his staff, and especially his players, did not doubt and did not give up.

The nine freshmen active on the roster Sunday will forever be a special team in the annals of Warriors sports. But while Roland (Louisville), Kevon Fortney (Mount Vernon), Dawson Verhines (Woodlawn), Noel Allen (Guttenburg, N.J.), Cody Hanner (Harviell, Mo.), Ameer Weeks (Chicago), Jesse Smith (Campbell Hill) and Dennis Froemling (Campbell Hill) have already made history, they are not finished.

The Warriors will find out sometime this week who and when they play at the national tournament, according to House.

"Now it's all back to square one," said Allen. "Time to get back to work."

The Lake led against Parkland the entire game - by six at the half (34-28). Roland, with only three points in the first half, came out on fire in the second half and scored the remainder of his 21. The Cobras started striking from three-point range as the two teams began trading buckets with Rend Lake holding on to a four-to-six point lead throughout the waning minutes of the second half.

Up by one point, Verhines hit two big free throws to put Rend Lake up by three. Cobras guard Shaquille Lowery answered with a three-pointer to tie the game. Verhines quickly inbounded to Roland who, with only a handful of seconds on the clock, drove the length of the court and beat two defenders to put the final nail in the Cobras' coffin.

"Score," Roland simply said when asked what was going through his head as he drove down the floor in those final seconds. "We were in the double bonus. I wanted to get fouled or get a clean shot."

"Cody had a good game and Noel had a good game," he added. "This team - we have been like family. It's big to do this with this group."

Allen - named Second Team All-Region XXIV on Sunday - arose to the leadership challenge and led Rend Lake in scoring with 22 points and five rebounds. The Lake focused on scoring inside most of the game with Roland and Verhines providing a threat on the perimeter. Fortney - also named Second Team All-Region - finished with only two points after leaving the game with a twisted ankle in the opening minutes of the second half.

"He will be fine in a week. He doesn't have a choice but to be fine and he understands that," said House. "He has really picked it up. He blocked a couple of shots tonight which was really big. He does a lot for our team besides put points on the board."

He said Weeks really stepped up and picked up the slack in Fortney's absence. Bolden had a monster game on the boards, grabbing down 14 rebounds and pitching in seven points. Verhines finished with 11 points and four rebounds while Hanner contributed 10 points and pulled down four rebounds.

The Warriors shot 28 percent from three-point range - only slightly better than the Cobras at 25 percent. The difference - and it was a big one - was that, because of its inside effectiveness, RLC only had 18 long-range attempts, compared to Parkland's 32, of which the team only sunk eight.

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