Nothing has come easily this season for the McKendree University men’s basketball team.
Injuries took a bite out of the Bearcats, who persevered with a roster of nine and qualified for their first-ever berth in the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament.
McKendree (13-13, 6-12) defeated Illinois-Springfield 88-83 in overtime Thursday in Lebanon and gained the No. 10 seed in the tournament. The Bearcats will play at seventh-seeded Quincy (18-9, 12-6) at 3:15 p.m. Sunday at Pepsi Arena.
“It was our goal at the start of the year,” 50th-year McKendree coach Harry Statham said of qualifying for the GLVC Tournament. “We’ve gone through some ups and downs, personnel in and out, injuries and all that. But these guys that are left are really fighters.”
If McKendree defeats Quincy, it will advance to the quarterfinals Friday at Family Arena in St. Charles, Mo. The semifinals will be March 5 and the championship game will be March 6, also at Family Arena.
Fans can watch the game live at www.mckbearcats.com/watch. Scott Cummings will handle the play-by-play.
Scouting the Hawks
Quincy defeated McKendree 95-76 on Jan. 9 in Quincy. Hawks junior Joseph Tagarelli burned the Bearcats with 22 points and 11 rebounds while senior Godson Eneogwe chipped in with 19 points. Tagarelli leads the Hawks in scoring at 16.6 points per outing.
It was our goal at the start of the year. We’ve gone through some ups and downs, personnel in and out, injuries and all that. But these guys that are left are really fighters.
McKendree coach Harry Statham on qualifying for the GLVC Tournament
Evan McGaughey, a 6-8 junior, averages 13.9 points and 8.4 rebounds. Four other Quincy players average in double figures: senior Thomas Jackson (11.5), junior Herm Senor II (11.2), junior Von Washington III (10.7) and Eneogwe (10.1). Senior Nate Des Jardins has a team-high 49 3-pointers; Senor and Washington each have 45 3-pointers.
“I think we’ll do better,” Statham said. “I know we’ll compete hard. We’ll come to play. Their inside strength is going to be tough to handle, but we’ll see what happens there. We’re excited to play. We’re happy we qualified. We’ll see how we do Sunday.”
Althoff High School graduate David Franklin turned in a monster game against Illinois-Springfield. The 6-foot-4 junior, in his first season with the ’Cats, scored 37 points on 15-for-23 shooting from the field. He also corralled nine rebounds and dished out three assists.
Franklin has poured in 559 points this season, good for a 21.5 points-per-game average. Recently, no opponent has been able to guard him. He played all 45 minutes Thursday and handled the ball frequently, yet committed no turnovers.
“I thought he played well defensively,” Statham said. “He had a great game for us. He’s been steady all year, no question about that. He’s getting a little more help now from some of the other players. That makes it better. But every time we go out, they key on David and on Nate (Michael). They both have bull’s-eyes on their back. We need help from other people.”
Michael, a redshirt freshman, has been on a tear with 156 points and 20 3-pointers in his last six contests, including a career-high 40 points Feb. 6 at Maryville when Statham became the winningest college basketball coach at a four-year school with 1,099 victories.
Michael, the son of former Carlyle High School all-stater and University of Illinois star Tom Michael, has 400 points, 55 3-pointers and is averaging 15.4 points. Michael wasn’t yet a starter when McKendree played Quincy in January, so he could be the wild card Sunday since scouting him and then guarding him are two entirely different propositions.
Everything he’s accomplished for himself, for the school is amazing. It’s a blessing to play for somebody like that. Coach Leib (Althoff coach Greg Leib) was like a second father; (Statham) is like a second granddad.
McKendree star David Franklin on playing for Bearcats coach Harry Statham
Junior Michael Jackson, the O’Fallon High School product, has been a rock of durability for the ’Cats, too. Jackson, has 369 points for a 14.2 average.
Franklin transferred to McKendree from Lake Land College in Mattoon and has enjoyed the privilege of playing under Statham.
“Everything he’s accomplished for himself, for the school is amazing. It’s a blessing to play for somebody like that,” Franklin said. “Coach Leib (Althoff coach Greg Leib) was like a second father; (Statham) is like a second granddad.”
Key for ’Cats
Finding a fourth scorer has been a challenge at times for the Bearcats. Franklin, Michael and Jackson accounted for 82 of McKendree’s 88 points in the Thursday triumph.
Junior Darin Winkelman is the leading candidate to bust into that group. The Steeleville High School graduate averages 9.6 points but has been stymied to five points or fewer in five of his last six games, including two in which he failed to score at all.
“He’s very capable of getting on fire from the outside. He’s a great 3-point shooter,” Statham said. “When everybody’s on, we’re pretty good. It’s playoff time and we’re trying to do that.”
Junior Kyle Yates has taken over at point guard for senior A.J. Schmidt, who is out for the season with a knee injury. Schmidt’s injury followed others to Brandon Book, who was limited to seven games, and Nolan Gerling, who was lost for the season before the first game.
Statham said Yates has been a key.
“He’s stepped in and played great for us,” Statham said. “Leadership, hustle, getting rebounds and loose balls. He’s a gamer.”