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DANVILLE, Ill. - For the first time in school history, the Triton College men's basketball team will compete in the national championship game. The Trojans held off South Suburban College 82-77 Friday night in an epic National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division II semifinal that featured the top two teams in the nation.
Triton, ranked No. 1 overall, has now won 30 consecutive games, improving to 34-2 overall. The Trojans will meet Kirkwood Community College (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) for the NJCAA Division II crown tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Danville. The Eagles (30-4) are ranked sixth in the nation. Kirkwood rallied from a 17-point halftime deficit to stun Essex County (NJ) 77-66 in the other semifinal contest.
"We are excited about the opportunity to play for the national championship," said Triton head coach Steve Christiansen. "Kirkwood is a proud program who has the most wins of any team in tournament history. We'll have to bring our A-game, but I'll take my group of guys up against anyone, anytime."
Against South Suburban in the first half, the Trojans were plagued with foul trouble as starters Eric Gillespie (Warren), Percell Washington (Foreman) and Josh Doss (Taft) were forced to the bench with two fouls apiece.
However, Triton's depth shined as the bench weathered the storm. The Trojans finished the half on an 11-2 run to take a 38-36 lead at intermission. Greg Carter (Morton) and Dante Thorpe (Washington, D.C.) in particular gave Triton valuable minutes. Carter scored 13 points in 24 minutes while Thorpe added 14 points in 20 minutes played.
Triton did not relinquish the lead in the second half but had to hold off a furious South Suburban (33-3) rally. A Gillespie three-pointer from the corner gave the Trojans what appeared to be a comfortable 75-66 advantage with just under three minutes to play. But the Bulldogs went on a 9-1 run as Javon Mooring hit a basket and was fouled with 50 seconds left to trim the Triton lead down to one point. Mooring, the nation's leading scorer, had a chance to tie the game from the foul line, but missed the free throw.
On the Trojans ensuing possession, Doss drove through an opening left of the lane for a tremendous two-handed dunk to put Triton up 78-75. South Suburban had one final chance to draw even, but Nick Norton (Downers Grove North) came up with a clutch blocked shot in the closing seconds.
The Trojans would seal the game from the free-throw line as Triton shot 35-of-40 (87.5 percent) from the charity stripe.
Gillespie paced the Trojans with 19 points, including a perfect 7-for-7 from the free throw line. Doss finished with 11 points and made all five of his free throws. Eddie Miles (Hales Franciscan) chipped in nine points. Norton added eight points in another balanced Triton attack.
If you can't make it to Danville, tonight's national championship game will be broadcast live by WRRG 88.9 FM, Triton College Radio, with Region IV Hall of Famer, Tim McKinney, calling the action. You can also listen to the games via the Tuneln Radio App by searching WRRG or by clicking on the "WRRG Streaming Broadcast" icon on the Triton men's basketball homepage. You can also Click HERE to watch the live stream of the game.
Triton College sophomore Josh Doss (20) slams home a dunk during the first half of the Trojan's 82-77 NJCAA D II tournament semifinal victory over South Suburban College on Friday night.
Previously in Triton:
* Triton Men's Basketball Team No. 1 For First Time.
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