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INA, Ill. (Jan. 29, 2012) – Rend Lake College’s men’s basketball team is riding a six-game win streak and has jumped up another spot on the latest national ranking.
The Warriors moved from eighth to seventh among Juco DII programs in the country, according to the Jan. 23 poll put out by the National Junior College Athletic Association. They were placed just below South Suburban College. The Chicago-based Bulldogs boast a 19-2 record. One of those losses was to Rend Lake, 76-68, on Nov. 10.
There are 11 games left in Rend Lake’s regular season. Rend Lake’s streak will be tested this week when it hosts a rematch with Lake Land College at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 30. The Lakers won by three points (68-65) in their last meeting – one of Rend Lake’s two losses in the Great Rivers Athletic Conference. Lake Land (14-5), like RLC, is 6-2 against GRAC opponents.
“They are division one and we are division two, so they are able to get better players,” said RLC Head Coach Randy House.
He added that, in his team’s defense, the Warriors did not play well at Lake Land in their first matchup this season. RLC cannot repeat that performance and expect to win on Wednesday.
“[Lake Land] is long and very physical,” said House. “We have to show up ready to play and play hard.”
RLC is in a unique position as a DII program. It’s schedule is filled more than halfway with DI opponents in the GRAC. The transition from DI teams in conference play to DII teams in the postseason is a metric that, most would think, gives Rend Lake good odds at advancing beyond the Region XXIV Tournament to the national championship tournament each year. However, 2012 was the first year the Warriors ever won the region and played in the national tournament. On the flip side, being a DII program puts Rend Lake at a recruiting disadvantage with less to offer potential players. After his team’s fourth conference win – 78-66 over Olney Central on Jan. 16 – House quipped, “You know. We aren’t supposed to win a single game in our league.”
In its historic trip to nationals last season, the Warriors finished 15-14 overall and 4-12 in the GRAC during the regular season. At this time last season, the team was 10-8. Compare that to it’s 14-2 record right now and it begs the question, “What’s the difference?”
House says it’s depth.
“We are deeper this year. We have more players,” he said.
The Warriors have two players averaging double-digit points per game in power forward Noel Allen (Guttenburg, N.J.) with 11.6 and freshman guard Cortez Macklin (Louisville, Ky.) with a team-high 14.7. Macklin leads the team in three-point shooting with just under four a game. His season-high so far is 28 points against Southern Institute on Nov. 2. He put up 27 against conference foe Wabash Valley.
Brothers Dawson and Bronson Verhines (Woodlawn) are both pitching in around eight points a game, as are Jeril Taylor and Montez Buford, both of Louisville, Ky. Bronson Verhines leads the team in rebounds with nearly eight per outing.
Rend Lake is leading its opponents in every stat category, including a 37-25 margin in rebounds per game and 76-47 in points per game.
“We are a little older [this year],” House added. “We have some sophomores this year where last year we didn’t have any. We had a couple of older freshmen last year in Noel [Allen] and TeNale [Roland], and TeNale moved on.”
Allen played a key role last season and still is this year. But with more scoring weapons around him, he hasn’t had to carry as big a load in the current campaign.
“Almost the whole team can score,” Allen said. “I mean, anybody, at any given time, could get 25 on our team. This year I can take my time a little more. I don’t have to struggle or force shots up.”
A side note: Roland is getting playing time at Utah State. House said although he thinks his former point guard would like to be playing better, he is definitely contributing toward the Aggies’ successful season, which was at 14-1 on a 13-game win streak before losing its last four games to WAC opponents.
“TeNale is definitely enjoying himself,” said House.
The Warriors are set to tip off at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday with Lake Land. The Lady Warriors will host the Lady Lakers at 5:30 p.m., before the men’s game.
For all things athletic at The Lake, visit RLC online at www.rlc.edu/warriors.