LEBANON — Saturday represented historical significance for the McKendree University men's basketball team.
Sophomore guard Mike DiGregorio scored 13 of his 19 points in the final 3 minutes, 7 seconds as the Bearcats rallied from a 10-point deficit in the second half to defeat Quincy 67-59.
It was McKendree's first victory in the Division II Great Lakes Valley Conference.
"I don't think I've had a finish like that," said the 6-foot-1 DiGregorio, who was 8-for-8 from the free-throw line in the final 36.3 seconds and 11-for-11 in the game. "They had to foul and I was fortunate enough to get the ball at the end. I had the opportunity to knock down some shots at the free-throw line, and I took full advantage of that."
Senior John Steppe scored a game-best 22 points for McKendree (7-5 overall, 1-1 GLVC). Freshman Matt Murphy, of Jerseyville, had 14 points and junior Clinton Happe had 12. Steppe, DiGregorio, Murphy and Happe accounted for all of the Bearcats' scoring.
Junior Chris Babbitt led Quincy (6-5, 1-2) with 16 points, while sophomore Scott Hahn had 10 in a reserve role.
The Hawks outrebounded McKendree 35-32, although the Bearcats controlled the boards 19-13 in the second half.
Quincy was 1-for-11 on 3-pointers despite shooting 45 percent overall (25-for-56). The Bearcats made seven 3-pointers on 29 attempts, with Murphy hitting four, three in the first half.
McKendree trailed 36-26 with 18:26 to play and 42-32 with 13:30 left. But a 13-3 run culminated by Steppe's rebound basket tied the game at 45 with 8:37 to play.
DiGregorio's 3-pointer from the right wing put the Bearcats ahead to stay at 54-52 with 3:07 remaining
"They kept sagging off me," DiGregorio said. "I kept coming forward and they kept sagging off. So I just let it fly. I feel good every time I shoot it, but this one, thankfully, went in."
Senior Tyler Thompson's free throw drew Quincy within 54-53, but Murphy nailed a 3-pointer to make it 57-53 with 1:54 remaining and DiGregorio's driving layup made it 59-53 with 1:04 left.
The Hawks were no closer than four the rest of the way.
"It's a historical win and it's a big win in the GLVC," said McKendree coach Harry Statham, who collected his 1,068th career victory. "We want more of the same, but it was a breakthrough and it was good, so we're real happy about that."
The undersized Bearcats played with more aggressiveness than in their GLVC opener on Thursday, a 69-66 loss to Illinois Springfield.
McKendree got to the free-throw line just five times Thursday, converting four. But on Saturday, the Bearcats were 22-for-28 from the line as they regularly drove the lane against the bigger and more athletic Hawks.
"Free throws are a big part of our game, our offense," Statham said. "We're playing with four small guys and a big guy, so we need to spread the floor and get to the rim. We didn't do a good job of that Thursday, but tonight, the last half, we did a terrific job.
"Mike was nails up there late. He really sealed things for us. Our kids are not big, but they have heart."
McKendree shot just 37 percent (19-for-52), but the only thing that mattered was breaking into the GLVC win column.
"It's big for us, definitely," DiGregorio said. "This is a great league, and we're not very deep. We play six, maybe seven people. We just played Thursday night, had practice yesterday, shootaround this morning. So it showed a lot of fight in us, regardless if it was a GLVC win or not."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at email@example.com or 239-2665.