by Luke Stanczyk
Behind a strong finish to the first half, the BenU Men’s Basketball team was able to clinch a spot in the Northern Athletics Conference tournament by defeating Rockford College on Saturday by a score of 80-69.
After Rockford jumped out to a 19-13 lead, BenU would go a run as they built up a nine point lead with about three minutes left in the half. A big momentum shift occurred when Rockford Head Coach Ryan Rebson was assessed a technical foul after a shooting foul, which game the Eagles four straight points just on free throws.
The Eagles also found themselves in the double-bonus with over eight minutes left to play in the half.
“It helped a lot,” said senior guard Nate Green about Rockford getting into early foul trouble. “Some of the players that they wanted out there couldn’t be out there, and when they were out there, they were hesitant.”
To end the first half, senior David Bernard hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to put BenU up 43-29.
“Davey’s three at the end of the half was huge,” sophomore guard Michael Woolf said. “It really extended the lead and gave us a lot of momentum going into the half.”
The Regents found themselves with similar troubles in the second half, putting the Eagles in the double bonus early once again. On top of that, Rockford also was issued two more technical fouls, this time on two of their players.
“I think they were just getting frustrated a little bit with the referees and our play,” said Woolf on Rockford. “They definitely lost their composure a little bit.”
BenU built their lead to as much as 18, but the Regents were able to claw their way back into the game with an individual effort from senior guard Dominique Walker. He scored 19 of his game-high 25 points in the second half, and the Eagles lead was down to 11 with 5:30 left to play.
However, Green went on a run of his own, scoring 12 second half points and icing the game at the free throw line down the stretch. He finished with a stat line of 21 points and 12 rebounds (a season high for Green), both of which lead BenU. It was also his first double-double of the season.
“I pretty much read the defense like always,” said Green on his second half performance. “The first half, I came out and tested some things, and the second half I came out and executed.”
The Eagles also got a big contribution from Woolf, who recorded 15 points and 11 rebounds. Also, Woolf, who is normally the team’s first wing player off the bench, got the start in this game.
“It was good,” said Woolf on getting the start. “I got the chance to start at the beginning of the year, and I really didn’t play well enough to keep it. I’m happy he gave me the opportunity to start tonight.”
Also for the Eagles, Bernard, junior guard Jamison Montgomery, and sophomore center Andy Crutchfield all added nine points apiece.
The game was also Senior Night, as the team’s three seniors (Green, Bernard, and guard Kyle Bickler) were honored before the game. It was also “Think Pink” night, as fans were issued pink t-shirts and the Eagles warmed up in pink shirts.
After this win, the NAC South division became even more of a logjam, with BenU, Rockford, and three other teams all within two games of each other in the standings.