Triton men's basketball team advance to Region IV Final
"Survive and advance" is the mantra that reigns supreme as the calendar now turns into March. For the Triton College men's basketball team, this was certainly the case as the Trojans did not have their sharpest efforts of the season, but made the key plays down the stretch to hold off Morton College 86-80 in a Region IV District B semifinal Sunday night in Olgesby.
Triton (24-8) will take on a familiar foe, South Suburban College (27-5) for the Region IV District B championship on Saturday, March 8, at Elgin Community College. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m.
The title tilt will be the fifth Region IV final between the schools in the last nine years with the two sides splitting the previous four meetings. South Suburban won over Triton in 2009 and 2012 while the Trojans were on the winning end in the 2006 and 2011 showdowns.
But to get the Bulldogs, Triton had to fight off a solid challenge from a Morton squad who had won a share of the Skyway Conference title. The Trojans got off to a cold shooting start against the Panthers 2-3 zone and fell behind 26-20 with six minutes left in the first half. Then Triton got going by ending the half strong with a 16-3 run behind the inside play of center Donovan Smith (Richards) who had 12 points at the intermission.
The Trojans kept the momentum going into the second half to build a 64-53 lead before the Panthers (18-14) rallied to take a 73-72 lead with just under four minutes to go after consecutive Triton turnover led to Morton baskets. However, the Trojans responded with a quick 6-0 run to take the lead for good and made critical free throws the closing minute to preserve the victory.
Morton had no answer for Smith's presence in the paint. The North Central Community College Conference (N4C) MVP scored 29 points on 12-of-14 shooting from the field. Smith grabbed 14 boards and blocked an impressive nine shots.
Chad McDowell (Louisville, KY) finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Devonte Taylor (Waukegan) had 12 points and six rebounds. First-team all-N4C selection Paul Beene (Leo) added 10 points and five assists.
"Although it wasn't pretty, the only focus in March is to keep winning," said Triton men's basketball head coach Steve Christiansen. "With that said, we know we have a tall order in front of us playing a talented and well-coached South Suburban team."
South Suburban won the only regular season meeting 80-74 on Jan. 4 at the Collins Center.
For more information on Triton College Athletics, visit www.triton.edu/athletics or call Athletic Director Harry McGinnis at (708) 456-0300, Ext. 3784.