DANVILLE, ILL. — Davidson-Davie Community College dashed out to an early lead in the NJCAA D-II National Championship game Saturday night.
Unfortunately for the Storm, an early lead deteriorated, and Des Moines Area Community College dominated the final six minutes of an 86-75 victory to take the title home to Iowa.
“Our kids are obviously so devastated,” DDCC coach Matt Ridge said. “I’m so proud of those young men and that locker room. Obviously you’ve got to tip your hat to [DMACC]. They made plays in the second half, and we had no answers for them. We couldn’t get stops.”
A 20-0 run propelled DMACC to the title, turning a 66-59 deficit into a 79-66 advantage with less than 10 minutes to play in the game. A game of runs, the Storm jumped out to an 18-6 lead to begin the contest before the Bears reclaimed the lead at 22-21 with 10 minutes until halftime.
They built a double-digit lead with four minutes to play in the first half and carried a 44-39 edge into the break.
“The 20-0 run was the ball game,” Ridge said. “They went on their run, and they had the last one. It was fairly long. I was searching for anything and everything to try and mix up our defenses there. … It seemed like I just didn’t push the right buttons tonight, unfortunately.
“It’s a terrible feeling for a coach.”
Bears guard Christian Haffner paced all scorers with 23 points. Zach Hobbs added 19 for DMACC, and two other Bear scorers were in double figures. For DDCC, DJ Suggs and Javeon Jones had 20 and 18 points, respectively, and Na’Zae Baltimore pitched in 17.
Jones, Suggs and Isaiah Pruett made the all-tournament team for the Storm. DDCC finished the season at 23-3 as the NJCAA D-II runner up after defeating Garrett College in the semifinals.
The Storm defeated Garrett College 97-89 to advance to the title game. After jumping out to a 17-4 lead to start that game, DDCC led 35-19 at the half, extending the lead to as many as 28 with 14:19 left in the second half.
Garrett came charging back, drawing to within five with 6:15 to play. That was as close as the Lakers would come, as they matched the deficit of five with 16 seconds to go. DDCC was able to close out the win, clinching a spot in the title game.
“We’ve been here before in the finals, lost in overtime,” Ridge said following the semifinal victory. “Those kids have worked their tails off [to get back]. Hopefully we can learn from some of the mistakes we made tonight and come back here tomorrow night and play at a high level.”
The Storm were led in the semis by Javeon Jones with 24 points. Isaiah Pruett added 19 for DDCC and had a breakout tournament. He was nearly perfect from the free-throw stripe, making 13 of 14 attempts.
Staff writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 336-888-3578, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.