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For Triton College head men's basketball coach Steve Christiansen, visiting Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove is always a little extra special. Christiansen is a native of Hinckley, Ill., just a short 15 minute drive to Waubonsee. So when Triton comes to town, many of Christiansen's family and friends fill the stands to cheer him and the Trojans on.
Last weekend's trip to Waubonsee was even more memorable for Christiansen. The Trojan's 93-59 win over McHenry County College in the NJCAA Region IV District 3 semifinal earned him his 300th career win at Triton. It also earned the Trojans a berth in the regional championship game.
They'll face Black Hawk College-East for the regional title March 5 at 5 p.m. at Waubonsee. The winner earns a trip to the national tournament later this month in Danville.
Christiansen has the second most wins in program history behind the legendary Rich Maack, who won 325 games from 1967-84.
Triton, ranked No. 1 in the nation among NJCAA Division II schools, notched their 26th consecutive win to improve to 30-2 overall.
"Three-hundred is a nice milestone, but it's a tribute to all the great players I've had the privilege to coach and the sacrifices they've made each year," Christiansen said. "It's been an amazing 12 years and I'm hoping it will last for many more."
The top-seeded Trojans dominated McHenry (17-13) from the opening tip, scoring the game's first 13 points. Triton did not allow a point until six minutes into the contest and jumped out to a commanding 30-4 lead midway through the first half.
All-American nominee Eric Gillespie (Warren) fueled the Triton attack with 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field. Sophomore Eddie Miles (Hales Franciscan) also scored 17 points, along with 7 rebounds and 6 assists. Dante Thorpe (Washington D.C.) chipped in 12 points on 6-of-13 shooting.
Next up for the Trojans is third-seeded Black Hawk East, currently ranked No. 14 in the nation. The Warriors (26-6) have been on emotional run this season as their program will be discontinued after the season due to budget cuts.
Triton won the team's only meeting in the regular season 71-56 back in November. Gillespie paced a balanced Trojan attack with 17 points while Thorpe added 15 in the victory.
"Although we are excited about playing in the regional final, we are very cognizant of the quality of our opponent," Christiansen said. "Coach Chance Jones and his staff have done an excellent job under difficult circumstances in leading their team to an outstanding season."
If you can't make it to Sugar Grove, the game will be streamed live online by Waubonsee. The website is www.waubonsee.edu/experience/athletics/. Click on "NJCAA Region IV Basketball Tournament" and then select "Watch Live" aside the game listing.
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